CHICAGO - For the third time this week, Chicago’s top cop found himself on the defensive over gun violence Friday, this time over a mass shooting downtown that left two dead and seven injured.
The people were shot near a notorious trouble-spot at Chicago Avenue and State Street as two groups began fighting near a McDonald’s restaurant and someone opened fire into the crowd.
The attack occurred just a day after Chicago police shot and seriously wounded an unarmed 13-year-old boy during a chase in Austin, and less than a week after a 16-year-old boy was fatally shot during a fight in Millennium Park.
Shootings have been spiking downtown for much of the year. The 18th police district, where the McDonald’s is located, has logged the most homicides in 17 years and the most shootings since at least 2010.
"This is a gun crime crisis," Brown told reporters who pressed him on his strategy going into the summer, typically the most violent time in the city. "We are awash in guns."
Brown was asked about a tweet from Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) complaining about the "daily excuses coming out of the superintendent’s office [that] insult intelligence & are infuriating."
Reilly in particular questioned Brown’s plan to assign fixed police posts at State and Chicago and on the Red Line subway platform nearby in the wake of Thursday night’s attack.
"We were already supposed to have fixed posts in place at Chicago & State. So, huh?" the alderperson tweeted. "City Council needs to step in & demand accountability. Their strategy is failing us miserably."
Brown declined to respond to the tweet, but he insisted during the news conference that his strategies helped make an arrest within minutes of the mass shooting.
Brown said "roving posts" of police officers have been patrolling downtown and one of the teams was responding to the fight at McDonald’s when shots rang out around 10:40 p.m.
"Our officers waded into the crowd," Brown said.
They chased the gunman onto the Red Line subway platform and arrested him along with someone who tried to help him escape, the superintendent said. A gun was recovered, police said.
A third suspect being chased suffered burns when she came into contact with the third rail. She was stabilized at Stroger Hospital.
Charges against the three were still pending as Brown spoke.
The superintendent said the attack was recorded by a police surveillance camera. Two groups are arguing when someone can be seen handing the shooter a gun, Brown said.
Five people were taken by ambulances to hospitals: A male with a gunshot wound to the chest, pronounced dead at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, a 31-year-old man pronounced dead at Stroger Hospital; a 17-year-old boy taken to Stroger with multiple gunshot wounds; another man, 19, taken to Northwestern in critical condition with a gunshot wound to his chest; a 46-year-old woman shot in the leg and taken to Illinois Masonic Medical Center, where she was stabilized.
Later, four men also hurt in the shooting showed up at Northwestern Memorial Hospital: a 31-year-old shot in the hand, a 21-year-old shot in the arm, a 30-year-old with two graze wounds and a 29-year-old with one graze wound, police said. They were all in good condition.
Police had initially said a total of 10 people were shot, but later changed that to 9.
The chaotic scene quickly spilled into the nearby CTA Red Line station as police chased the suspects, stopping at least one train and evacuating passengers.
Witnesses said the shooting stemmed from a fight outside the McDonald’s.
"When the fight first started, we were right next to them," said Deonna Jackson, 18. "We had to run because I didn’t want anyone to swing on me."
"We were literally right there," she said. "The person that they jumped on, we were talking to the people he was with, which turned out to be some girls."
"We get to 7-Eleven, we turn around and they just get to shooting, to shooting like crazy," Jackson said.
Tensions erupted among the crowd of onlookers, some of them yelling as officers blocked off the streets around the McDonald’s. Some in the crowd began fighting with each other and officers quickly moved in to break them up.
One person asked an officer why it had to be this way. "It doesn’t have to be," the officer responded.
As the sun rose Friday, two people who said they knew one of the victims at Northwestern talked near a car where a woman, appearing distraught, spoke to someone on the phone.
"There’s nothing you can do or say to help us right now," one of them said.
He said it was difficult getting information from police and hospitals. "These victims have mothers."
About an hour later, the woman was seen leaving the hospital in tears. Three others sobbed and hugged each other near the hospital’s entrance.
Around the same time, Mayor Lori Lightfoot was issuing a statement calling the shooting "an outrageous act of violence" and saying she has asked the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection to determine what measures need to be taken "to address long-standing concerns along that block."
"Area residents, commuters and others must simply have the peace of mind that this highly trafficked area is safe, and it is time for more specific, concrete steps to be taken to address this area once and for all," Lightfoot said.
Later in the morning, the Buildings Department sent inspectors to the McDonald's and posted an "off limits" notice because of "dangerous and hazardous electrical conditions." The statement did not elaborate.
Morning commuters had complained that blood, broken glass and other debris from the shooting remained on the sidewalks around the restaurant and subway stop as they headed to work.
When asked about the complaints, Brown said: "This is an ongoing crime scene that needs to be processed for evidence."
A reporter then noted that commuters were navigating puddles of blood in an area that was not cordoned off by crime scene tape. "I stand by my response," Brown said.
Brown’s curt manner came a day after he declined to fully answer questions about the shooting of an unarmed 13-year-old boy by a Chicago police officer on the West Side.
On Monday, Brown fended off questions about a 16-year-old boy shot dead near the Bean sculpture, telling reporters to attend a court hearing for the person accused of shooting him.