CHICAGO — Daniel Grunauer is a name that may ring some bells for long-time CWBChicago readers. We first reported on him in 2014 when, while working as a Wrigleyville bartender, he was charged with a string of arson fires.
After he got out of prison for that, he was arrested again, charged with posing as a cop as he tried to sexually assault a man outside the Town Hall (19th) District police station near Wrigley Field in 2017. He got six years for that.
Grunauer is back in jail today. Prosecutors say he made a series of false 911 calls in Boystown over the weekend, including one in which he claimed that a police officer had been shot on Halsted Street.
Citing “the sheer havoc this wreaked on the city,” Judge Susana Ortiz ordered him to pay a $5,000 bail deposit to get out of jail on electronic monitoring.
Late Sunday night into early Monday morning, the Chicago 911 center received several 911 calls about non-existent emergencies in Boystown, according to Assistant State’s Attorney Danielle Levin.
She said there was a false report of someone overdosing and two calls of people armed with knives. The calls allegedly came from the same number, which police traced back to Grunauer.
But it was the false report of a police officer being shot that led to Grunauer being charged with a felony.
Just before midnight on Sunday, a 911 caller reported an officer down at Halsted and Roscoe streets, which was bustling with post-Pride Fest revelers. Levin said another call asked for all available officers to respond to the scene.
But there was no officer down, much less an officer shot.
Levin said a CPD sergeant reviewed the call logs and learned the number used to make the false reports is registered to Grunauer. Knowing that Grunauer has a history of similar behavior, the sergeant filed a report and sent Grunauer’s picture to offices in the field, according to Levin.
When an officer asked a dispatcher to call the number that made the phony 911 calls, Grunauer’s phone rang, Levin said.
Grunauer’s five felony convictions include attempted arson, false impersonation of a peace officer, and burglary. In 2010, he was convicted of misdemeanor impersonation of a peace officer, according to Levin.
His defense attorney during Monday’s bail hearing said he has a master’s degree in business and works full-time as a restaurant manager.
In March 2014, Grunauer was charged with phoning in a false marine distress at Edgewater Beach, sending the U.S. Coast Guard and the Chicago Police Department’s helicopter and Marine Unit searching for a non-existent person in the water. In court records, police alleged that Grunauer falsely reported that a man yelling something about a woman and “Allah” slipped on the rock and fell into the lake. All charges were dropped.
Grunauer’s attempted arson conviction stems from a fire he allegedly set in Uptown in August 2014. That crime was caught on video, but Chicago police suspected he was responsible for other fires set in alleys around Boystown and Wrigleyville that same year. At the time, Grunauer worked as a bartender at a bar on Clark Street in Wrigleyville.
And his burglary conviction came after he broke into an Uptown apartment building undergoing renovations on June 8, 2014. An arson fire swept through a section of the building that same day.
A week before the apartment break-in, a building manager in the 5800 block of Kenmore told police that two witnesses saw Grunauer throwing lit pieces of paper out of his window, setting fire to a couch below.
The police report from that incident said Grunauer was also seen “on video shutting off power to the building… by switching off the circuit breakers.” Grunauer was charged with two counts of reckless conduct, but all charges were dropped.
Grunauer was also mentioned as the main attraction in the next-to-last tweet from Oak Park gay bar Velvet Rope before it burned down in an arson fire in June 2012.
Velvet Rope owner Frank Elliott pleaded guilty to having the bar set ablaze in an insurance scam and received probation. Elliot also briefly operated Bonsai Bar on Boystown’s Halsted Street bar strip. Grunauer often picked up hours at Bonsai, a source said in 2014.
Grunauer was never charged with the Oak Park fire or the Wrigleyville-Boystown alley blazes.
Less than four months after he was paroled, Grunauer was accused of impersonating the police during an assault near the 19th District police station.
Grunaer approached a 21-year-old man near the 19th District police station parking lot at 3625 North Fremont and identified himself as a police officer, a CPD spokesperson said at the time. He told the victim he was under arrest and to put his hands behind his back.
But a real police officer arriving for work saw the incident unfolding and interrupted the crime, police said.
A grand jury indicted Grunauer on charges of attempted criminal sexual assault, kidnapping, aggravated battery, and more. But he pleaded guilty to a single count of impersonating police in exchange for a six-year prison sentence, according to court records.