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Five women dead in Tinley Park clothing store shooting

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An armed robber killed five women - including at least one customer - this morning at a Lane Bryant clothing store in south suburban Tinley Park before fleeing the scene and launching a manhunt, police said.

The women’s bodies were found in a backroom of the store, which is located in a shopping center at 191st and Harlem.

One of the victims was identified by her family Carrie Hudek, 33, a social worker from Frankfort who was shopping at the store when she was shot.

“[She]was the most wonderful, loving person who did everything for anybody,’’ said sister-in-law Jennifer Hudek.

The shooter - described by a witness as a stocky man in a dark knit cap and dark jacket - was seen leaving the scene but police are yet to find him. Tinley Park Police Sgt. T.J. Grady said police were “pretty sure’’ he acted alone.

Why the shooter targeted the small retail store for robbery is anyone’s guess.

“It’s not a place where you would find a lot of cash,’’ a police source said, adding that the man did make off with some valuables.

Why it turned deadly is also unknown, police said.

The store did not appear to have its own video camera, a police source said, but authorities are checking for cameras within a few miles of the Brookside Marketplace shopping center at 191st and Harlem, just south of Interstate 80, where the Lane Bryant is located.

The sprawling center, built in recent years, includes some storefronts that have not opened yet, making the Lane Bryant store more isolated.

“We’re checking every possible means of getting out of this area,” Grady said.

The other victims have yet to be publicly identified as police were still attempting to notify some of the victims’ relatives Saturday.

All five of the victims were between the ages of 24 and 40, said Tinley Park Mayor Edward Zabrocki. It’s not clear yet how many of the victims were employees, police said.

“We’re very sad about it,” a clearly shaken Zabrocki said from the scene. “... We’re a victim of our society that we live in.”

The first call of shots fired came into police at 10:44 a.m., Grady said. Inside, they found mayhem.

“There is no question it was a horrific scene,’’ a police source said.

Greg Grace of Frankfort, who was in the parking lot outside Lane Bryant, said he saw several stretchers being wheeled into the store. The stretchers later were wheeled out - carrying no one.

There are at least 40 investigators on the case. Police searched neighboring stores and cars in the parking lot, and used a police helicopter to search the surrounding area, Grady said.

Police even locked down some stores in the center, including a Target, PetSmart and Office Max, searching each with guns drawn.

Six officers “just kind of ran through our store real quick, and searched it from top to bottom,” said Graham Schaeffer, an Office Max employee. “It was freaky became we didn’t know what was going on.’’

Shopper Charlotte Vaitkus, a resident of the surrounding area, said she wanted “to issue a statement to the mayor because of the frequency of crime off Interstate 80. We just don’t feel safe.”

Carissa Townsend, 15, of Homewood, who was also shopping at Brookside Marketplace, said the incident was “scary ‘cause it’s so close to home.’’

Mayor Zabrocki said that after the shooting Tinley Park sent extra police patrols into the residential neighborhoods nearby and sent an automated telephone message to residents to tell them about the shooting. The village also broadcast information on local access cable television.

Police said they were looking for a medium-complected black man standing 5-foot-9, weighing between 230 and 290 pounds and wearing a waist-length black coat, a black knit cap and dark jeans. Anyone with information on the shooting is asked to call Tinley Park police at (708) 444-5368.

Art Golab, Dave Newbart, Annie Sweeney and Monifa Thomas are reporters with the Chicago Sun-Times; Carly Mullady is a reporter with the SouthtownStar

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