Members of the Chicago Police department at the scene of a police involved shooting in the 4300 block of South Ashland Avenue on May 2.
Photo credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/TNS
CHICAGO — Two plainclothes officers wounded in the Back of the Yards neighborhood were shot with a high-powered rifle in an area where street gangs have been increasingly using military-style weapons, Chicago police said Wednesday.
Investigators have seized a rifle believed to have been used in the attack in the 4300 block of South Ashland Avenue, along with a handgun. They also arrested three people and were searching for others, according to police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.
One officer was hit in the arm and hip, the other in the back. Both were “recovering at home” Wednesday after spending the night in Stroger Hospital, Guglielmi said.
Names of the Deering District tactical officers have not been released, but one of them is the son of a high-ranking Chicago police official, sources said.
In a statement, the Police Department said the shooting took place about 9:10 p.m. Tuesday when “two vehicles pulled up and the occupants began firing shots indiscriminately in the direction of the officers.”
The officers returned fire, but they apparently didn’t hit anyone, the department said.
Their van was riddled with bullet holes, Guglielmi said.
The other two vehicles sped off. One was found near 37th Street and Racine Avenue, less than 2 miles away, and the rifle was recovered nearby, according to sources.
Investigators on Wednesday reviewed video from surveillance cameras at two businesses near the shooting scene to try to determine whether the shooting had been captured, employees said.
Not far away, in the 4800 block of South Bishop Street, where police took a person into custody, a portion of the block remained closed off with red crime scene tape Wednesday evening.
It remained unclear whether there was more than one shooter or if the participants knew they were shooting at officers, Guglielmi said, but investigators were “operating under the impression” that the officers’ tactical vests would have been visible to those outside their unmarked van.
The two officers had been following up on an earlier investigation, police said. According to sources, the two had been investigating a gang-related shooting that left a 15-year-old boy wounded in the left leg about 6:35 p.m. Tuesday. That shooting took place at 18th and Halsted streets in the Pilsen neighborhood, about 3 1/2 miles from where the officers were shot.
In February, the Tribune reported that gangs in Back of the Yards on the South Side were increasingly using rifles.
Police said that was the only area of the city where rifles styled after AR-15s and AK-47s were regularly used, a menacing new development in the gang fights.
At the time, more than 30 shootings believed to have been tied to semi-automatic rifles occurred there and in neighboring Brighton Park over the previous nine months. At least 46 people were shot in those attacks, 13 fatally.
Police suspected the rifles were being passed around by members of four rival Hispanic gangs in the area.
The last time a Chicago police officer was shot was Nov. 27 in the West Garfield Park neighborhood on the West Side. The officer suffered a graze wound to the forehead while police exchanged gunfire with Richard Grimes. Grimes, 33, who police said had just shot his pregnant fiancee in the abdomen, was fatally shot by officers.
Outside the hospital Tuesday night, Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said the shooting of the two officers “is just another example of how dangerous this job is.”
Thomas Murdock, 51, of Little Village, had been in a Dunkin’ Donuts when he heard gunfire and saw paramedics tending to two officers, one of them on a stretcher.
“It was like whack, whack, whack. Big guns. Next thing I know, I find out police got shot,” Murdock said.
Minutes later, a procession of police vehicles raced north.
Police dispatch audio captured the dramatic moments as one officer, shouting excitedly, signaled that he and his partner had both been shot.
“My partner’s hit!” he yelled.
“Units, we got a 10-1, 43 and Ashland,” he said, using the code for officer in need of assistance. “10-1, 43 and Ashland. Officer down!”
The officer then seemed to say, “We’ve both been shot.”
Within minutes, other officers converged on the scene and quickly sought additional help.
“Let’s get those ambulances rolling. Let’s get those ambulances (going). Come on, come on, come on,” one officer said.
“10-4. We’ve got ambulances on the way,” a dispatcher responded.
Later, a supervisor updated the officers’ conditions.
“They’re OK,” the supervisor said.
“10-4,” the dispatcher said before turning to the task of arranging to close down traffic between the shooting scene and Stroger Hospital to clear the way for the wounded officers.
In its statement on Tuesday’s shooting, the police department asked anyone with information to contact Cook County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-535-STOP (7867). Information can also be emailed to CPDTIP.com.
The Chicago Tribune’s Tony Briscoe, Rosemany Regina Sobol and Elvia Malagon contributed.
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SOURCE: CHICAGO TRIBUNE