CHICAGO — Minutes after a River North man was attacked and gravely wounded on the Magnificent Mile this summer, witnesses directed Chicago police officers to the attacker about a block away. The cops detained the suspect and summoned a transport vehicle to take him to the station. But for some reason, the police decided to let the suspect go. And they didn’t even file a report about what happened, according to law enforcement sources.
Two weeks later, still hospitalized, the victim died, very likely due to the trauma he received during the attack, sources familiar with the case say. The medical examiner’s findings are pending.
Now, the Chicago Police Department has launched an internal investigation to determine why its officers failed to document a violent daytime attack on one of the city’s most famous corridors and why they let the suspected attacker go free.
Free to go
Russ Long, friends say, was a caring, grounded, witty man. He loved his high-rise home, overlooking the river from near the Wabash Bridge. A long-time employee at Northern Trust, former coworkers remember him as sharp, reliable.
At about 3:45 p.m. on June 29, Long was walking on the 600 block of North Michigan Avenue. Exactly what happened on the sidewalk outside the Cartier store is a mystery. Asked about Long’s case last week, a CPD spokesperson said only that a 53-year-old man suffered blunt trauma to the head. He was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in critical condition.
About 15 minutes after the attack, a CPD unit radioed that the offender was in custody outside a shopping mall in the 500 block of North Michigan.
“Yeah, the [witnesses] walked up on us, and he walked right up to the [squad] car,” one officer radioed.
“Alrighty,” the dispatcher replied. “I got you guys holding that offender at 520 North Michigan.”
But CPD arrest records show that the suspect was never taken into the station. Other records indicate that the police department didn’t even document the attack until four days later, on July 2.
Citing an active Bureau of Internal Affairs investigation, a Chicago police executive declined to answer questions for this story.
People familiar with the situation said a police officer went to the hospital after Long was taken in, but they left without filing a report because he could not speak. Long, badly injured, was intubated and sedated.
At least three people tried to file a report with CPD over the next four days; each was met with a different reason why the police department could not take a report from them, said a person familiar with the requests.
Eventually, on July 2, a friend of Long’s called 911 from his hospital bedside and asked for an officer to come to Northwestern to take a report. The call taker again refused to send an officer because Long could not speak, but eventually relented and dispatched a car.
Finally, four days after the attack, CPD began the process of documenting and investigating what happened to Long. Area Three detectives started pursuing the case immediately, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Ten days later, at 7:19 a.m. on July 12, Russ Long died at Northwestern.
Several individuals inside and outside of CPD told CWBChicago that, upon receiving the report, the department immediately realized something went wrong on the day of the attack. Two said the attack occurred when cops were changing shifts, but they did not know if that played a role in the matter.
Multiple sources said Chicago police know the identity of the man who was detained and released after the attack. The department is “quite familiar” with him, said one.
Investigators will determine how to proceed after the medical examiner’s findings are complete.
CPD has had other challenges with murder cases that began with victims suffering head injuries in assaults.
In January 2022, a California man hit his head on the pavement after someone assaulted him outside a bar near Wrigley Field. Sergio Ontiveros, 51, succumbed to head and brain injuries eight days later.
Officers in the Town Hall (19th) Police District’s surveillance operations center located footage that showed an apparent fight breaking out and Ontiveros being pushed to the ground, according to CPD radio traffic. After Ontiveros was down, other people came by, picked through his pockets, and left the area before the cops arrived.
While the Cook County medical examiner’s office ruled Ontiveros’ death a homicide within weeks, CPD didn’t switch its classification of the case from aggravated battery to murder for another 15 months, records show.
Ontiveros is the father of one of Motown legend Smokey Robinson’s granddaughters.
In an infamous example, the nephew of former Mayor Richard Daley was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for punching a man who fell and struck his head on a curb during a fight near the Division Street nightlife district in 2004.
The case was swept under the rug until the Sun-Times published an exposé in 2011. A Cook County judge soon named a special prosecutor, former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb, to investigate the matter, and Richard “RJ” Vanecko pleaded guilty three years later.