CHICAGO — A man who died after being badly beaten on the Magnificent Mile this summer is a homicide victim, the Cook County medical examiner’s office has determined.
We first told you about the case in August, revealing that Chicago police officers stopped the suspected killer within minutes of the attack but decided to let him go and then failed to file a report documenting the crime for days.
At the time, the cause and manner of death of 53-year-old Russ Long were still pending. Now, the medical examiner’s investigation is complete, and officials say Long died from craniocerebral injuries he received in the assault.
Long, friends say, was a caring, grounded, witty man. He loved his high-rise home overlooking the river 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 in August, 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 July 2, four days after it happened.
Officials said the handling of the case is now under investigation by CPD’s Bureau of Internal Affairs.
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.
Over the next four days, at least three people tried to file a report with CPD. Each was met with a different reason why the police department could not take a report, 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 city’s call taker again refused to send an officer because Long could not speak, but eventually relented and dispatched a car.
Only then did CPD begin documenting and investigating what happened to Long. According to sources familiar with the matter, Area Three detectives started pursuing the case immediately.
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 knew the identity of the man cops detained and released after the attack. The department is “quite familiar” with him, said one.
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.
Officers in the Town Hall (19th) Police District’s surveillance operations center located footage that showed an apparent fight breaking out and Sergio Ontiveros being pushed to the ground, according to CPD radio traffic. After Ontiveros was down, other people arrived, 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. Long’s case is still not listed as a homicide in the city’s crime database.
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.