Man shot near West Loop homeless camp as concerns about tent cities fester

Chicago police at the scene of a homeless camp in the West Loop after a man was shot nearby on March 4, 2024. (Provided)

CHICAGO — A man is recovering after being shot in the West Loop on Monday morning. It’s the latest in a string of shootings that local aldermen have linked to open-air drug markets operating around homeless camps in the area.

This morning’s victim was in the 500 block of West Kinzie when he got into an argument with another man around 9:29 a.m., Chicago police said. Police found the 42-year-old victim a short time later in a homeless camp under a bridge at Clinton and Fulton. He had a gunshot wound to his left leg. Officers at the scene said he was being uncooperative with their investigation.

“Despite an extensive paper trail of well-documented public safety concerns communicated to the Mayor by two members of the City Council: the Administration refuses to act & continues to allow this open-air drug market to spiral out of control, as incidents of violence & overdoses persist,” Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) tweeted upon learning of the shooting.

Reilly and Ald. Bill Conway (34th) have been publicly calling for help from the administration for months. And Conway claims that a top aide to Mayor Brandon Johnson told him that more help would be provided only if Conway voted in favor of legislation Johnson wanted to get passed.

Other shootings, linked by the aldermen to narcotics activity under and near the homeless camps, have been reported in the area since late last year:

A man was murdered under the Clinton L station on December 7, steps from a nearby camp. Another man was shot at the same location on November 8. He survived. Two weeks before that, another man was shot in the 600 block of West Fulton.

Investigators determined that the murder victim, 59-year-old Darnell Burt, was killed while participating in a shootout with someone in the 100 block of North Clinton.

Burt, standing outside the French Market parking garage, was caught on video exchanging gunfire with someone on the opposite side of Clinton Street, a Chicago police report secured by CWBChicago said. After being shot in the chest, Burt ran north on Clinton and collapsed under the train station.

Before first responders arrived, a man walked up to Burt’s body and stole Burt’s gun with one hand while taking Burt’s bag with the other hand, the report said, citing surveillance video.

Cops detained a man who matched the description of the person who took Burt’s gun and bag, but he was released without being charged. No other arrests have been announced in connection with the case.

“Based on the clear trajectory of violent crime in the area, this tragic fatal shooting was inevitable and likely avoidable,” Conway claimed after the December 7 murder. “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.”

Late last year, Conway accused Johnson’s administration of withholding city services that could clean up a homeless camp under the Clinton train station. 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, the freshman alderman claimed. He referred the matter to the city’s inspector general.

Days before the murder, Chicago police arrested a 19-year-old man after he allegedly sold drugs to an undercover cop just a few yards from the 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. Police allegedly 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.

Last month, Chicago police conducted an undercover narcotics sting at the homeless camp. They arrested two men, recovered a handgun, and seized $5,100 worth of drugs and nearly $2,300 in cash from a tent. Judge David Kelly released both men to await trial.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com