ShotSpotter alerts keep leading Chicago cops to armed men and shell casings, arrest reports say

A ShotSpotter device in Springfield. (Salisburymistake)

CHICAGO — Mayor Brandon Johnson dodged questions when reporters asked him on Monday to square his decision to cancel the city’s relationship with ShotSpotter given that an alert from the gunfire detection system is how Chicago police officers first learned of a shooting that left an off-duty officer dead over the weekend.

Many aldermen representing wards struggling with violent crime want to keep ShotSpotters in their wards. But Johnson’s allies—mostly aldermen representing more affluent, safer neighborhoods that aren’t even monitored by ShotSpotter—are blocking those efforts.

Meanwhile, the technology continues to help Chicago police officers bring charges against people for allegedly firing guns on the city’s streets. Here are a few recent cases:

Cops responding to a ShotSptter alert of seven rounds fired in the 6200 block of South Cottage Grove encountered a man and woman in a courtyard around 11:15 p.m. on April 10. The officers said in a subsequent report that two witnesses told them that the couple had been arguing when the man fired several rounds into the air. Police also recovered six shell casings at the scene.

Prosecutors charged the man, 46-year-old Kevin Money, with reckless discharge of a firearm and unlawful use of a firearm by a felon. Judge William Fahy rejected the state’s detention petition, opting instead to release Money on electronic monitoring.

On April 9, officers responding to a ShotSpotter report of one round fired behind an address in the 5100 block of South Martin Luther King Drive found 74-year-old Freddie Shelton sitting in a car at the location.

The officers said he was alone in the car, with the headlights on and what appeared to be a cup containing an alcoholic beverage. When they asked him if he heard gunfire, Shelton allegedly said he heard it coming from a different location.

But, after police asked him to step out of the car, they allegedly found a loaded handgun between the driver’s seat and the center console. At that point, Shelton allegedly admitted that he fired the gun when he mistakenly tried to use it to light his pipe instead of using his gun-shaped lighter.

Judge Fahy released Shelton to await trial on charges of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and reckless discharge of a firearm.

In another case, ShotSpotter sent officers to 77th Street, just east of Emerald Avenue, to investigate five rounds fired. The cops found a group of people standing around an SUV at the location.

Asked if they heard gunfire, one person told the officers they heard shots down the street.

However, as officers stepped around the SUV, they allegedly saw a firearm handle between the legs of a man sitting inside the vehicle. The gun fell to the floor and the man tried to push it under his seat with his feet, the officers said in an arrest report.

They detained the man, identified as 44-year-old Clarence Coats of Lafayette, Indiana, and recovered a .38 Special revolver from under his seat, the report said. Police allegedly recovered five .38 Special shell casings, too.

Coats, charged with unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, was released by Judge Kelly McCarthy. Court records show he received a 10-year sentence upon being convicted of attempted murder and aggravated battery in 2003.

Previous reporting

Critics of the ShotSpotter system insist that it is inaccurate and ineffective. Some say it is racist. Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx claimed that ShotSpotter does not contribute significantly to firearms-related prosecutions in the city.

Our team reads hundreds of Chicago police reports every week. We can say with certainty that ShotSpotter alerts routinely result in the arrests of armed men—and they’re almost always men—after shots are fired in the city. This series includes cases we happened to come across during our work. It is not an exhaustive list of every ShotSpotter case.

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