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Rare Mag Mile shooting a case of gang-related road rage, police say

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Updated: July 24, 2012 9:47AM



In a city peppered by gunfire, Chicago’s Magnificent Mile is typically exempt.

Not a single shooting was reported in the police beat that includes North Michigan Avenueover the past 12 months.

That streak ended early Friday, when a gang-infused road rage shooting played out just outside the tony Cartier jewelry shop in the city’s marquee shopping district.

A 31-year-old man, described as the aggressor in the road rage case, ended up in critical condition after getting shot in the gut. Sources called him “a documented gang member.”

The shooter fled in a silver Dodge Durango. He was still being sought Friday, police said.

The two drivers pulled over on Ontario Street, just a few feet from Michigan Avenue, just after 12:30 a.m. Friday.

“The cars end up pulling over to the curb, and they get into a confrontation,” Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said. “One guy gets out of his car, goes over to the other guy’s car and uses a pipe to break the window of the guy who did the shooting. The guy who got shot was an aggressor.”

Before the shooting, someone inside the silver Durango asked the victim, “What are you about?” — street slang for “What gang are you in?” according to police sources. The victim replied, “I’m not about nothing.” The person in the Durango then said, “I’m a King,” a reference to the Latin Kings street gang, police sources said.

McCarthy described the location of the shooting as a “troublesome” instance.

But he also said, “Road rage unfortunately happens where cars go. It’s not something that’s confined to the neighborhoods. If it could be confined to a geography, it would be a whole different dynamic.”

Asked whether tourists, shoppers and area residents have reason to be afraid when they’re out on the Magnificent Mile, McCarthy said, “No, they should not. We are deployed there. We had officers deployed when this happened. Officers work late at night. I was just on Michigan Avenue myself. There are cops all over the place. There’s cops down there everywhere.”

McCarthy said his department continues to try to reduce the violence.

“That fact is, we’re gonna get this under control,” the superintendent said. “We have a gang problem. This whole issue is troubling. People think you can flip a light switch and turn it off.”

Downtown and River North already were on edge because of a return of the mob attacks that occurred in the area last summer. Those attacks involved random and innocent victims, including two doctors at Northwestern Memorial. The attacks prompted the hospital to offer employees who work late at night a security escort to their cars parked at nearby garages.

The shooting startled some residents walking through the upscale area many viewed as a haven from the violence common in other neighborhoods.

“Usually, it’s safe. You never hear about shootings here,” said Maria Vinnick, a mother of two who has lived in the city for seven years.

“It worries me,” said Mark Ammerman, 39, a North Sider who frequently walks through the River North neighborhood after nights out.

But Ammerman said one shooting won’t keep him out of the neighborhood at night.

“I don’t feel unsafe in Chicago,” he said. “It wouldn’t stop me from coming down here and going to dinner.”

Others said the shooting likely was an isolated incident that shouldn’t take attention away from the fact that shootings are common in other parts of the city.

“I’m less concerned about it being here,” North Side resident Mark Gordon, 46, said as he unlocked his bike from a street sign a few feet from where the shooting occurred.

Several tourists said they were surprised but not alarmed about the unusual location of the violence.

“It doesn’t scare me,” said Lisa Leeson, a resident of Vancouver, British Columbia, who’s visiting Chicago with her husband and 1-year-old son. “It happens in all cities. Because you’re in a downtown area doesn’t mean you’re protected from those realities.”

Fraternal Order of Police union president Mike Shields said he sees the shooting as a reminder of the manpower shortage in the police department resulting from a three-year hiring slowdown and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision to balance his first budget by eliminating more than 1,400 police vacancies.

“There are shootings in the Gold Coast at night clubs,” Shields said. “There are shootings at nightclubs late at night in Lincoln Park. But this type of stuff does not happen or should not happen on Michigan Avenue.

“Gang members have become bold and brazen. They know that all the police are on the South Side and on the West Side. So it’s so much easier to go in to a neighborhood that’s known to be low in crime because they’re under-policed.”

Shields said the city is in a “manpower crisis” and that Emanuel and McCarthy “refuse to admit it.”

He added, “Why was NATO successful? It’s because we had proper manpower levels. Chicago police officers are out there with one hand tied behind their back because they don’t have the backup, and the gangbangers know it. They have the police outnumbered and overworked. When officers, because of such a high volume of calls, don’t have time to aggressively patrol gang members, incidents like this will happen — everywhere and anywhere.”



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