CHICAGO — “It shouldn’t have come to this, but it was eminently foreseeable that someone was going to get killed,” Ald. Bill Conway (34th) said this morning, hours after a man was murdered beneath the Clinton L station in the West Loop.
Conway has been working for months to get a nearby homeless camp cleaned up, saying it is fueling violent crime and narcotics activity in the neighborhood.
“Based on the clear trajectory of violent crime in the area, this tragic fatal shooting was inevitable and likely avoidable,” lamented 34th Ward Alderman Bill Conway.
“For months, I’ve been relentlessly trying to get the Mayor’s Office to see that this site was no longer a peaceful encampment but rather a magnet for violent crime and drugs,” the freshman alderman continued in an email sent to media outlets.
He was also expected to speak at an afternoon press conference.
Conway recently accused Mayor Brandon Johnson’s administration of withholding city services that could clean up a homeless camp under the Clinton train station on Lake Street. A top Johnson aide said the city could do more but would only act if Conway agreed to vote in favor of two of the mayor’s pet projects.
Last week, Chicago police arrested a 19-year-old man after he allegedly sold drugs to an undercover cop just a few yards from the homeless camp and this morning’s murder scene. Prosecutors said police went into a tent Tailon Appleton sold drugs from and found nearly three-quarters of a pound of heroin worth $52,875 and $8,610 worth of crack. They also recovered a loaded handgun with an extended ammunition magazine attached inside a backpack inside the tent, officials said. They also seized $1,188 in cash from Appleton.
Prosecutors asked Judge Maryam Ahmad to keep Appleton in jail as a public safety threat, but she refused, deciding instead to put him on electronic monitoring. Ahmad supported her decision by saying the arrest was Appleton’s first as an adult, that he cares for his mother, who has cancer, and that he was “very compliant [with] officers.”
“Any number of recent events, including last Friday’s major arrest, should have been sufficient to warrant their response. It is unfortunate that it has come to this, but I hope it finally results in action,” Conway continued.
The alderman’s media statement claimed Johnson’s office sent residents a “stock letter” after last Friday’s arrest that included a “misrepresentation” that the tent city was “merely a peaceful encampment” and noting that “homelessness is not illegal.”
“The unfortunate response also disregarded the fact that for some time now, the Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) hasn’t been able to get [residents of the camp] to accept their offer for rapid rehousing and has been referring cases to CPD—because it isn’t safe, for anyone,” the statement said.
Conway thanked the Chicago Police Department and other city agencies that have partnered with his office to address the camp’s challenges.
“I also want to assure my community that as Alderman and a father who walks his young daughters through these viaducts each day, I will continue to do everything possible to address this dangerous situation,” Conway stated. “Everyone has the right to live in a safe community and deserves to have their concerns addressed by the Mayor’s Office without condition.”