ShotSpotter leads cops to shooting victim, firearm on Northwest Side

CHICAGO — People who want Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson to reconsider his decision to end the city’s relationship with the ShotSpotter gunfire detection system often point to two things the system does well: pinpoint gunfire to a specific address and help first responders locate shooting victims quickly.

A single ShotSpotter alert on the Northwest Side this week did both of those things, and Chicago police were able to take another gun off the street there, too.

It happened just after 11 p.m. on April 23. ShotSpotter detected ten shots fired in a parking lot next to 4988 North Elston in Albany Park. As police responded, witnesses saw Giovanni Burrell lying on the ground on top of a gun at that location, a CPD report said. According to police, a gunman shot him from a passing SUV.

One of the witnesses kicked the gun away from Burrell, the police report said, but Burrell tried to grab it again. The witness picked it up and moved it away as the cops arrived.

Giovanni Burrell in 2022 (Chicago Police Department)

Despite having a gunshot wound to his leg, Burrell got up, jumped a fence, and bolted onto nearby train tracks when the officers pulled up, the CPD report said. The police arrested him there and recovered the handgun he was allegedly lying on. It was loaded with an extended magazine attached, the police said. The officers also discovered ten shell casings at the address that ShotSpotter provided.

Inside Burrell’s backpack, the police allegedly recovered six grams of crack, two grams of powder cocaine, ten grams of crushed psilocybin mushrooms, 42 ecstasy pills, and five Viagras.

Burrell, 27, has another felony gun case pending based on allegations that he had a gun during a traffic stop in April 2022. Officials diverted it to a “restorative justice” court, where criminal charges can be washed away by participating in “restorative conferences and peace circles.”

More Shots Spotted

Around 2:50 a.m. on April 22, police responded to a ShotSpotter hit at 4507 South Hermitage. As they headed toward the scene, officers in the local police district’s intelligence center pulled up a video feed from that location and told responding officers that they saw a pickup truck crash into two parked cars about 50 feet from the ShotSpotter address.

Upon arrival, officers found 35-year-old Jesus Ramirez alone in the truck’s driver’s seat, a CPD report said. As he stepped out of the truck to speak with the police, “multiple” bullets and a spent shell casing fell to the pavement from inside the vehicle, which smelled like gunpowder, according to the report. It said officers found two more bullets on the floorboard and another shell casing on the driver’s seat.

In the short distance between the truck and the ShotSpotter address, the officers found a handgun with all of its ammunition expended. The weapon also smelled of gunpowder, leading the cops to believe it had been fired recently, the police report said.

Ramirez is charged with reckless discharge of a firearm that endangers others, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, possession of a controlled substance, and leaving the scene. Judge William Fahy released him on electronic monitoring.

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 filed.

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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