Off-duty police officer shot in head driving through Chicago

Image 1 of 4

Police gather at the scene where a man was shot June 26, 2019 in the 200 block of East 37th Street | Sam Kelly/Sun-Times

An off-duty Chicago police officer was critically injured early Wednesday when someone in another vehicle opened fire and shot him in the head as he drove on the city's South Side, the police superintendent said.

The 25-year-old officer was rushed to the University of Chicago Medical Center for emergency surgery. At a news conference later in the morning, an emotional Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said the officer is "clinging to life" but that he has hope after the man was able to give a thumbs-up after surgery.

Johnson left the news conference and visited the officer at the hospital, where, according to department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi, the officer was able to blink his eyes when he saw Johnson and "grip his hands a little bit."

Police said the officer was driving a few blocks from police headquarters at about 1:30 a.m. when someone in a black Toyota sedan fired a gun at the officer's vehicle.

After the shooting, the officer's black SUV knocked over a stop sign, sideswiped a fence and collided with a tree outside an elementary school, Johnson said.

No arrests had been made and police have not identified any suspects, but Johnson said detectives were interviewing the woman who was riding with the officer when he was shot, and reviewing a private surveillance camera that captured part of the shooting. The woman was not injured, police said.

Detectives haven't determined a motive but Johnson said there was a chance it was a case of mistaken identity.

Johnson has appeared emotional in addressing the media after other officers have been shot, including after the fatal 2018 shooting of a close friend, Cmdr. Paul Bauer. As in that shooting, Johnson talked about a personal connection that he and his family have with this officer and his family. He said that not only does he know the injured officer's father very well after the two worked together for years as patrolmen, but that Johnson's own son, a police officer, and the injured officer work together in the same police district and are good friends.