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Lyric Opera stagehands intervene in real-life drama: a tourist under attack

Mark Ball 50 was charged connectiwith beating tourist near Lyric Operlate May. Stagehands intervened helped injured victim. |  Mugshot

Mark Ball, 50, was charged in connection with the beating of a tourist near the Lyric Opera in late May. Stagehands intervened and helped the injured victim. | Mugshot provided by the Cook County Sheriff's Office

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Updated: July 10, 2014 6:03AM



Lyric Opera of Chicago stagehands found themselves in the middle of some real-life drama just outside their doors last month when they came to the aid of a tourist being pummeled in broad daylight.

Police say Mark Ball, 50, allegedly began beating a 27-year-old Boston man — for no apparent reason — near 20 W. Wacker about 2:30 p.m. on May 28.

For Robert Hartge, a laid-back day — the last of the season at the Lyric — was suddenly turned upside down in an instant. Standing inside the opera’s glass doors on Wacker Drive with other stagehands, Hartge noticed a man, dressed like a delivery driver, attacking a man half his size.

“We just saw a man walk by and the assailant for no apparent reason just grabbed him and socked him,” Hartge, 43, of Hanover Park said, noting that was their cue: “We came running out fast and about four of us tried to break it up. He was actually going at him, [the victim’s] cellphone had fallen down and his Starbucks went off flying.”

Hartge was able to grab the victim and bring him into the Lyric building while using a work walkie-talkie to signal for help. But he went back out to follow Ball so he wouldn’t get away.

“He just walked away like nothing had happened,” Hartge said of Ball, who was dressed in brown pants, a brown shirt and a brown hat and had a traveling bag with him.

Hartge followed him for about a block and was able to flag transit police officers, who were able to hold him until Chicago Police arrived.

The victim was bloody and battered by the time he got to the hospital, with a broken nose, multiple cuts and bruising to his face and body, police said.

The man told police he was walking on the sidewalk when Ball began following him. He tried to change direction at Washington and Canal to steer him away but Ball became combative and hit him in the face. The man fell to the ground but Ball continued to hit him by kicking him in the face and body as he laid on the ground curled up in a defensive position, yelling for help, according to the police report.

Ball is charged with felony aggravated battery in a public space. A Cook County judge ordered he be held in lieu of $100,000 bail. Ball has a lengthy criminal history, including a felony aggravated battery to a government employee charge in 2001, a 2011 felony charge for allegedly threatening a public official and several other battery charges.

Reached by phone, the victim said he was in Chicago for a vacation, and said he was recovering at home in Boston.

Hartge said he was disheartened that others didn’t stop for help.

“When we looked up, there were people everywhere. They just seemed like they were acting like nothing was happening. Their blinders were on. We were shocked that nobody even walked up to us and asked what was going on,” Hartge said.

Hartge said he’s glad he raced to action.

“I’m just tired of hearing about these people. Of all the crime and people getting away like that,” Hartge said. “We weren’t about to let people do that.”

Email: tsfondeles@suntimes.com

Twitter: @TinaSfon



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