Around 4:35 a.m. Sunday, a caller told Chicago 911 operators that a man had just threatened people inside the Jeffery Pub and walked out, saying he was going to his car to get a gun. But no officers were ever dispatched to handle that call because the local police district had no cops available. In fact, there was already a long list of other calls for help ahead of it, all waiting.
About 25 minutes after that call from Jeffery Pub, 911 callers reported a fight in the street in front of the bar. Then, within moments, a flood of 911 calls came in.
A speeding driver had just plowed through the group of men who were fighting in the street. Three of them died. Two were injured.
Yet, according to dispatch records, it took the Chicago Police Department at least 20 more minutes to get its first police officer on the scene.
“EMS arrived on scene long before police. Crowd was rowdy. EMS had to remove the bodies and took them to [the University of Chicago Medical Center] before CPD even showed up,” a witness said in a message shortly after the horrifying attack.
On Monday, CPD’s chief of detectives confirmed that the driver appeared to hit the men intentionally, and he said it seemed to be linked to a disturbance that began inside Jeffery Pub. It’s not yet known if that disturbance is related to the 911 call about a man going to his car to get a gun.
Sunday’s untimely police response is not unusual, nor is it a new problem. And while CPD leaders insist that they are sending more and more cops to local districts, there is little evidence to support their claims.
For example: Jeffery Pub, one of the city’s oldest gay bars, is at 7041 South Jeffery Boulevard, in CPD’s Grand Crossing (3rd) District. Since David Brown became Chicago’s police superintendent in April 2020, Grand Crossing has lost 25% of its officers, according to city data. It had 372 cops when Brown started. There are 279 today.
In preparation for this story, we asked CPD for input about Sunday’s response and Brown’s previous statements that delayed responses are “normal.”
“Due to the ongoing investigation,” the police department said in a statement, “we have no further comment at this time.”
‘Assault in progress’
The first hint of trouble at Jeffery Pub came around 4:37 a.m. on Sunday when a Chicago police dispatcher broadcast an “assault in progress” call from someone at the bar. A 911 caller described a man who was “threatening the staff and patrons” and was walking north on Jeffery after saying he was going to get a gun from his vehicle. Listen:
Eleven minutes later, the police dispatcher read off a list of every 911 call in the Grand Crossing district waiting for an officer to become available. It took her a full minute to read them all. About 47 seconds in, the call at Jeffery Pub was mentioned. Listen:
No officers became available and, at 4:59 a.m., the dispatcher radioed details of a new call at Jeffery Pub’s address. There were 20 people fighting outside, a 911 caller said. About two minutes later, she read out another call. This time, a caller said someone had a gun outside the bar. Listen:
Then, at 5:03 a.m., the dispatcher reported multiple calls of a vehicle striking people in the street outside of Jeffery Pub. Someone was lying on nearby train tracks, she later said. No officers responded, but an officer in the Grand Crossing District’s intelligence room pulled up a police camera feed around 5:10 a.m. and confirmed two people were laying in the middle of the street. Moments later, he described what happened: People were fighting in the street when a silver sedan struck them all. CWBChicago shared that video on Sunday.
At around this time, 5:13 a.m., the fire department declared an EMS Plan I at the crash site. But police were still not going. Three minutes later., CPD’s dispatcher read out the district’s still-pending assignments again. Listen:
Meanwhile, on fire department radios, a battalion chief asked for police to come to the scene to help with traffic and crowd control. His dispatcher confirmed they would “put in another request.” The chief soon received this update. Listen:
Finally, at 5:19 a.m., the only officer available in the entire third district, a sergeant, heads toward the scene. Listen:
The police dispatcher returned to the air at 5:26 a.m. with another request from the fire department supervisor, who needs help with “traffic control, crowd control, there’s 5-plus people down … the crowd is getting a little rowdy over there with the paramedics on scene.” Listen:
Then, at 5:33 a.m., the lone sergeant radioed that he was on the scene with backup from other districts.
CPD records show that police classified the case a reckless homicide about 20 minutes later, suggesting the department quickly understood that it was not dealing with an accident.
On Monday, CPD Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan told reporters that the department is “actually looking for some help at this point.”
“There are a lot of people that were inside the bar prior to this occurring and we definitely believe that there’s individuals who actually want to give us that information to name the suspect,” he said.
Deenihan confirmed that police found the car that hit the men just a few blocks from Jeffery Pub on Sunday morning.
Apparently the car responsible has been found and recovered. pic.twitter.com/jhWYmDHO6C— ChiWx378 (@WeatherIzzi) August 14, 2022
He encouraged anyone with information to call detectives at 312-747-8380 or to submit tips anonymously at CPDtip.com
‘A normal Saturday night’
In early June of last year, Brown bristled when a reporter asked him during a press conference about staffing shortages.
The reporter read off a list of radio transmissions she heard in which police dispatchers or officers indicated that there weren’t enough cops to handle situations over the just-ended weekend. Then, she asked for Brown’s response.
“Do you have a question?” Brown snapped.
“My question is, is there a shortage of manpower?”
“That’s a normal Saturday night everywhere in the country,” Brown volleyed. He then blamed COVID restrictions at the police academy for the department’s dwindling headcount.
As he spoke, the Chicago Police Department had 12,297 officers. This month, there are 11,611.