CHICAGO - Five men linked by police to a deadly gang shootout in Austin last week were released from custody after prosecutors declined to charge each of them with a pair of felonies, including first-degree murder.
The mid-morning gunfight, which left one shooter dead and two of the suspects wounded, stemmed from an internal dispute between two gang factions, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting. The shooting was captured on a city POD camera
Police sought to charge all five suspects with murder and aggravated battery. By Sunday morning, a Chicago police spokeswoman acknowledged the suspects had "been released without charges."
At a city council budget hearing on Monday, Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown and police command staff were asked why.
"You can't determine who was discharging a firearm on the street from those cars, and that's kind of the issue with this case. Also, the people in the house that we arrested, so everybody that was arrested in this case invoked their right to remain silent. And therefore, nobody besides the video which does show as the superintendent mentioned mutual combatants," said Brendan Deenihan, Chief of Detectives.
"But even the victims who were shot refused to talk to the police, invoked their right to remain silent. And then that's where it made it difficult for the detectives to present a case saying 'well this is the person who had a gun in their hand and they were discharging at this person who had a gun in their hand.' Because the video does not clearly show, you couldn't tell if it was you or I or who was the actual discharge."
Alderman Chris Taliaferro said he is shocked that the gunmen were let go and said he believes they will shoot again.
Some are blaming the Cook County State's Attorney's Office for failing to prosecute.
The Cook County state’s attorney’s office explained that prosecutors had "determined that the evidence was insufficient to meet our burden of proof to approve felony charges," a state’s attorney’s office spokeswoman said, adding that police officials agreed with the decision.
But a police report framed the state’s attorney’s office’s decision to decline charges in a different light: "Mutual combatants was cited as the reason for the rejection." Mutual combat is a legal term used to define a fight or struggle that two parties willingly engage in.
Last week, Cook County prosecutors came under fire after making a similar argument after a teenager was stabbed to death during a fight in suburban Schaumburg.
The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.