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Two Joliet men held in in Thanksgiving Romeoville police shooting

Romeoville police cars outside Kohl's store southwest suburb early Friday.  |   Ken Herzlich/For Sun-Times Media

Romeoville police cars outside the Kohl's store in the southwest suburb early Friday. | Ken Herzlich/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 2, 2014 6:34AM

Bail was set Saturday for two men accused of dragging a police officer with their getaway car after an alleged Thanksgiving night shoplifting attempt at a Romeoville Kohl’s.

Robert L. Russell Jr., 51, is being held in lieu of $400,000 bail. The Joliet man faces charges of attempted murder, aggravated battery and retail theft.

Gerald Chamberlain, 28, also of Joliet, is being held in lieu of $100,000. He faces a charge of retail theft.

Romeoville Police Chief Mark Turvey said store security detained the two men about 10 p.m. Thursday at the Kohl’s store, 261 S. Weber Road, but one of them escaped and was running out of the store when two police officers arrived. The man, Russell, jumped into a Pontiac Sunfire driven by a third man, Turvey said.

“(Russell) was holding the door closed on (the officer’s) arm and wouldn’t release it as the car dragged him,” the chief said.

He said the second officer ordered the driver, Charles A. Hinch, 52, to stop, and when he did not, the officer fired five shots from behind the fleeing car — hitting Hinch in the left elbow and causing him to stop the car and both men to be apprehended.

Hinch, of the 400 block of Pico Street, was taken to Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital and later transferred to Loyola Medical Center in Maywood. He remained in police custody at the hospital Saturday.

Hinch will be taken to the Will County Jail when he is discharged in a few days, Turvey said Friday evening.

He said the officer who was dragged was treated and released from the hospital.

Chamberlain, of 1319 Englewood Ave., remained inside the store during the incident. The street gang database shared by law enforcement identifies him, Russell, of 509 Francis St., and Hinch as gang members, police said.

Monica Hernandez, 41, of Romeoville, said she was just pulling in to a parking spot at the store 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.”

“I think this is an isolated incident,” Turvey said. “We have our share of shoplifting, but it’s never escalated to this extent.”

The officer who fired at the car will be on station duty while the Will-Grundy Major Crimes Task Force investigates the shooting, which Turvey said is standard for an officer-involved shooting.

County jail records indicate that Russell spent three months there after a shoplifting arrest by Crest Hill police in 2009. Hinch was released on parole in July from state prison on a 2011 conviction for drug possession in Will County, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections. Its records show that since 1986 Hinch has served eight prison terms for burglary, shoplifting, drug dealing and forgery in Will and Cook counties.

By Friday morning, all signs of the shooting were gone other than a line of TV news trucks parked near the store. Black Friday shoppers arriving hours after the shooting didn’t seem too concerned about it.

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 she said she was bothered by it initially involving a minor crime.

“(It’s) upsetting that somebody felt they had to steal clothing, and a police officer put his life on the line for that. It’s not like a jewelry heist or a bank robbery,” she said.

A spokesperson for Kohl’s said in an email Friday that the store is cooperating with investigators and deferred any further comment to police.

Contributing: Cindy Wojdyla Cain, Ashlee Rezin, Frank Vaisvilas

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