Two men charged stemming from Black Friday incident at Romeoville Kohl’s
BY FRANK VAISVILAS AND ASHLEE REZIN For Sun-Times Media November 29, 2013 2:00AM
Updated: November 29, 2013 7:07PM
ROMEOVILLE — A Romeoville Police officer shot a man and another officer was injured Thursday night while trying to stop three Joliet men suspected of shoplifting at a Kohl’s store in the southwest suburb.
Police received a call from store security about shoplifters about 10:10 p.m. Thursday, according to a statement from Romeoville police.
Two officers arrived on the scene and confronted 51-year-old Robert L. Russell Jr., who was trying to flee the store, located at 261 S. Weber Road. The officers chased Russell, who jumped into the passenger seat of a Pontiac Sunfire, police said.
One of the officers caught up to the car on foot, and while the officer attempted to arrest Russell, of the 500 block of Francis Street in Joliet, he closed the car door on the officer’s arm, police said.
The officer’s arm was still stuck in the car’s door when the driver pulled away, dragging the officer, police said.
His backup officer ordered the driver to stop, but the car kept moving. The backup officer fired three or four shots into the car, hitting the driver in the left arm, police said.
The officer who was dragged suffered a non-life-threatening shoulder injury and was taken to Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital in Bolingbrook, police said.
The driver, 52-year-old Charles Hinch, of the 400 block of Pico Street in Joliet, was taken to Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital in Bolingbrook with one gunshot wound, and later transferred to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, police said.
Russell and Hinch were both arrested, police said. A third man who was apprehended while still inside the store, 28-year-old Gerald Chamberlain, of the 1300 block of Englewood Avenue in Joliet, was also arrested in connection with the incident.
Chamberlain and Russell were booked into the county jail around 9:45 a.m. Friday and are scheduled to appear in court Saturday.
Chamberlain was being held on suspicion of felony theft.
Will County State’s attorney spokesman Charles Pelkie said Friday afternoon that charges were being reviewed and Russell likely would be charged with aggravated battery to a police officer. Formal charges will be filed for preliminary hearings and bail on Saturday, Pelkie said.
Jail records indicate Russell spent three months behind bars after a shoplifting arrest by Crest Hill police in 2009.
Chamberlain was arrested in May on drug possession charges and is already scheduled to appear in court Dec. 23 on traffic charges.
Hinch remains hospitalized, according to reports. He was released on parole from the Dixon Correctional Center for a 2011 conviction of drug possession in Will County.
The Department of Corrections reports since 1986 Hinch has done eight previous prison stretches for burglary, shoplifting, drug dealing and forgery in Will and Cook counties.
By Friday morning, By 7 a.m., all signs of the shooting were gone other than a line of TV news crew trucks parked along the south side of the store’s parking lot. Black Friday shoppers arriving hours after the event seemed unfazed by the shooting.
Karen Hasberger of Romeoville said her husband heard about the incident late Thursday and sent her a text.
“I thought he was joking,” she said.
But there is one thing that bothers her about the shooting, she said as she walked into the store to return some items.
“What bothers me is it was over clothing,” she said. “So that’s upsetting that somebody felt they had to steal clothing, and a police office put his life on the line for that. It’s not like a jewelry heist or a bank robbery.”
A spokesperson for Kohl’s said in an email Friday that the store is cooperating with investigators, and deferred any further comment to police.
“This is definitely a rare occurrence,” Romeoville Police Chief Mark Turvey said early Friday. “We’ve had shoplifting on Black Friday, but something like this is rare.”
The officer who fired at the car will be on station duty during the investigation of the incident, he said.
One entrance to the Kohl’s, at Airport Road and Weber Road about a mile south of Interstate 55, remained open early Friday and people were still shopping inside the store.
Monica Hernandez, 41, of Romeoville, said she was just pulling in to a parking spot and getting ready to shop about 11 p.m. when she saw police running after a guy and heard multiple gunshots.
“When I pulled the car in, I heard the gunshots. I ducked under my seat,” Hernandez said. “It’s crazy. Romeoville doesn’t have a lot of crime like that.”
Contributing: Brian Stanley, Cindy Wojdyla Cain