Chicago-TheaterAs I was driving in to Chicago today, about 1 p.m., the WLS team reported that a 6’ 7” inch male in his fifties had been shot and killed by Chicago police in the downtown theater district, near the Chicago Theater at State and Randolph Streets. The WLS team was agog that the shooting took place less than 50 yards from their offices.

Two Channel 7 photographers were outside smoking and, as a result, ended up as witnesses to the entire event. (“Thank God people still smoke!” said one on-air talking head.)

The man who was shot was described as “an over-aggressive panhandler” who was apparently using a large butcher knife to make his point. This caused understandable stress for the streets, which were full at the time, as it was the lunch hour. Because it was the lunch hour and the original Marshall Fields (now Macy’s) flagship store and a Border’s bookstore are nearby, there were a number of people in the street who witnessed the incident.

Pepper spray was initially used on the man, but it did nothing. The man with the knife took an older gentleman hostage and, in preliminary reports, the radio people said that he was pulled from the man and then held the knife to the throat of a woman, who was described as “curled in the fetal position against the curb” before she was taken away by ambulance. I watched the news later in the day, and there was no mention of a female hostage, but the fact that a man with a butcher knife was menacing people in broad daylight in one of the busiest parts of town went unquestioned.
The real kicker to the story is that 5 to 10 shots were fired, and one of them hit an officer who, fortunately, was wearing a bulletproof vest, so that he sustained only minor injuries. (A local police official said the bullet did not penetrate the vest and the worst the injured 11-year veteran officer might have suffered would be bruised ribs and a bruise at the site of the shot.) The two officers firing their weapons had a combined total of 27 years of experience on the force, and the commanding officer conducting the news conference on the 6 p.m. news, when asked why the officers did not use tasers, said the policemen did not have tasers with them and, “We had a man who was trying to murder someone right in front of officers,” which the officer seemed to be saying justified shooting the panhandler up to ten times.

Anthony Porse, a young African-American bystander who was interviewed by the WGN newscasters on the 6 o’clock news said, “I never saw anything like this happen in broad daylight.” (near State and Lake). Bobby Polk, another eyewitness interviewed said that he heard four shots and vouched for the fact that the officers told the man with the knife to put down his weapon and release the hostage three separate times.

I will not be shopping at Macy’s downtown store in the foreseeable future.