CHICAGO - What started as a relatively peaceful and joyous evening at North Avenue Beach ended in bloodshed that had Chicago Police Supt. David Brown once again urging people not to bring guns to the beach.
"Don’t bring guns to the beach, it is just not something that is going to make us safe," Brown said. "Regardless of the reasons you think is the reason why you’re doing it, it is just not appropriate to bring a gun to the beach, to a park, to a special event, to a concert. We are going to hold you accountable."
Brown said a flyer on Facebook had advertised a gathering at North Avenue Beach for Tuesday afternoon and evening. People started arriving around 4 p.m. and it was mostly a peaceful time, with families enjoying the lakefront and the volleyball court packed with people.
Because of past disturbances, officers were at the entrance of the beach doing bag checks. Shortly after 5 p.m., police found a 9 mm handgun in a fanny pack — the first arrest of the night at the beach.
Just 30 minutes later, a second arrest was made after a gun was found in another person’s bag.
But until about 9:45 p.m., Brown said the night was peaceful with about 100 people dancing, dipping in the water and having fun. Then officers heard screaming from two women fighting.
"Moments later — after officers heard the screams and saw the fight between two women — officers see a muzzle flash from nearby, hear shots being fired and a 19-year-old male sustained multiple gunshot wounds from that shooting," Brown said.
Three young women who were at the beach said they heard someone say, "Somebody got a gun, somebody got a gun" before hearing at least six shots.
"We just heard shots and ran," said one of the women who asked not to be named.
The man was taken to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in critical condition, Brown said.
Officers chased two men who ran from the scene and were able to apprehend one of them. The second man was seen tossing a fanny pack before he evaded police. That fanny pack was recovered and a gun with an extended magazine was found inside.
After the shooting, the crowd moved over into the Old Town neighborhood near North Avenue and Wells Street where more fighting broke out.
Officers attempted to break up a fight when they sustained minor injuries, police said. One officer suffered scrapes and cuts to his arms. Another was struck in the eye. They were both treated at the scene.
A third officer was struck in the back of the head with an object and was taken to a local hospital, where he was treated and released, police said.
Three arrests were made, Brown said: two 15-year-old boys and a 16-year-old girl.
The crowd at North Avenue and Wells Street had completely dispersed by 11:30 p.m.
On Memorial Day, Chicago police arrested 13 people and recovered 11 guns during a daylong, sometimes rowdy party at North Avenue Beach.
Brown said there is a significant police presence at the beach — in the hundreds — doing patrols and at checkpoints. But he said it is still impossible to check everyone because of the many ways to reach the beach.
Besides stepped-up patrols in neighborhoods and at the beach, Brown said his department is using "enhanced security measures" like mobile lighting and "other things that we can do to capture offenders."
The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.