Possible meth lab found inside River North apartment

Chicago Fire Department personnel at the scene of a small fire in the 300 block of West Illinois on April 12, 2024 (Citizen App)

Chicago firefighters discovered a possible meth lab on Friday evening when they responded to a small fire inside a River North apartment. CFD used portable hand pumps to extinguish the fire, which was confined to one room inside a second-floor unit in the 300 block of West Illinois.

The fire department evacuated some residents from neighboring units as a precaution and brought in a hazardous materials team, according to a resident. Testing of materials inside the unit confirmed the presence of a narcotics lab, and CFD turned the scene over to police.

Drug Enforcement Administration personnel helped with cleaning up the lab, an agency spokesperson said. CPD is handling the criminal investigation.

Back in March 2021, police and fire officials initially thought they had discovered a meth lab after finding a 30-year-old man dead inside an apartment in the 200 block of East Illinois. The first cops who entered the unit on March 24, 2021, discovered a clandestine laboratory, including scientific equipment, tools, industrial cleaning supplies, chemicals, and lab glassware, in the man’s kitchen, a Chicago police report said.

But it wasn’t a drug lab at all. Sources told media outlets including CWBChicago, the Chicago Tribune, and WGN that investigators found chemicals and pipe bombs in the apartment, although CPD never said that publicly. The department did reveal, however, that lead azide, a potentially volatile substance used in detonators, was among the materials authorities removed from the residence.

CPD’s bomb squad took items from the apartment to a secluded area near Soldier Field for detonation during their investigation.

The Cook County medical examiner’s office eventually determined that the man found inside the apartment, Theodore Hilk, died from accidental lidocaine poisoning. In 2007, Hilk made local news in Shawnee, Kansas, when he earned a perfect score of 36 on his ACT. He later went on to study at MIT.

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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