Chicago Cops Survive Assault Rifle Fire that Riddled Unmarked Van

As Chicago Police search for the people who shot two officers late Tuesday, they also are trying to figure out how and why the officers were targeted.

The two officers — one the son of a deputy chief — were in an unmarked tactical van, conducting a gang investigation. They were followed to the shooting scene, near 43rd and Ashland, CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said, and police are looking into whether the investigation was compromised.

“It’s a miracle the officers are still alive,” Guglielmi said Wednesday morning. The more severely injured officer was shot in the back; the deputy chief’s son was hit in the arm and hip. Both are expected to survive. They were at Stroger Hospital. One of them was released Wednesday morning.

Extra security is being provided for the officers and their families.

Investigators were questioning three “people of interest” in the shooting, which occurred in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, officials said.

The van the officers were in was “riddled with bullets.”

Police said the shooting happened in the gang territory of the Saints. Investigators suspect the shooters were members of the rival La Raza gang.

As in other parts of the city, police have seen a rise in the use of military-style rifles in the ongoing shooting wars that contributed to Chicago’s murder toll of nearly 800 people last year.

One such rifle was recovered, along with a handgun, in connection with the officers’ shootings.

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is checking where the guns were originally purchased, and by whom.

After the shooting, a massive manhunt was launched across the South Side, Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said in a press conference Tuesday night outside Stroger Hospital.
“Make no mistake,” a visibly angry Johnson said Tuesday. “We will find the people responsible for this.”

Newly elected Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham issued a statement Wednesday morning decrying the “latest unprovoked attack on police officers doing nothing more than carrying out their sworn duties.”

Graham said the incident “highlights yet again the dangers police officers in Chicago and all across the country are faced with every day. I hope politicians and the media realize how dangerous police work truly is and what courage officers demonstrate each and every day, as this shooting illuminates.”

Multiple security cameras are in place around the intersection where the shooting occurred, near 43rd Street and Ashland Avenue.

Just after 9 p.m., the officers were in plainclothes while “conducting a follow-up investigation to a previous incident” that happened near that intersection, Johnson said.

That’s when “one or possibly two vehicles” pulled up, and people inside started shooting at the officers, Johnson said.

The officers returned fire, Johnson said. It was unknown whether they hit anyone.

Police found a vehicle possibly used in the shooting, Johnson said.

The officers, who have not yet been identified, were with their families at the hospital and “doing quite well,” Johnson said.

Hundreds of officers from across the city had swarmed the area in the hours after the shooting. Dozens more congregated at the hospital. Mayor Rahm Emanuel visited the officers and their families before leaving about 10:35 p.m.

“We’re praying for the officers and hoping for a full recovery, and we’re praying for all the officers continuing this investigation,” Ald. Patrick Thompson (11th) said outside the hospital. “This act of senseless gun violence . . . shows we need to do something.”

Graham also briefly spoke at the press conference. “Our thoughts and prayers are with them tonight,” he said.

Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) said the “continuation of the gang and gun violence that we’ve seen is now hitting home. We’ve seen it impact our children, we’ve seen it impact our families, and now we’re seeing it impact our police department.”

Officers from across the city were scouring “every nook and cranny” in Back of the Yards and into the Canaryville neighborhood, Thompson said. They were looking for multiple suspects, according to Thompson, who said he didn’t know what led up to the shooting.

In an emailed statement, Lopez and Thompson wrote: “We are in close communication with the 9th District Commander and officers, and we urge anyone with any information regarding this shooting to come forward immediately to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to swift justice.

“While the details of this horrific incident remain unclear, what we know for certain is that the gun violence that has terrorized Back of the Yards and communities all across our city must end.”

Chris Villanueva, 36, said he was walking back to his car in a strip mall parking lot on Ashland, south of the shooting scene, when he heard about a dozen rapid-fire shots.
“I thought it was fireworks maybe, but around here, you hear gunshots a lot,” he said. “Next thing, cops are everywhere.”

A woman who declined to give her name said she was waiting for a CTA bus on Ashland when she saw a wave of police cruisers speeding to the scene.

“They weren’t messing around,” she said. “I’ve seen shootings, but I’ve never seen anything like that.”

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