More than 100 people were arrested Monday, and at least two were shot, following a night of chaos in Chicago’s upscale Magnificent Mile shopping district and other parts of downtown after crowds smashed windows and looted storefronts in a move that city authorities are calling “pure criminality.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot called the looting an “assault on the city,” and officials have stressed it was not connected to any organized protest, but seemingly spurred after a police-involved shooting in the city’s Englewood section on Sunday afternoon.
Hours after the shooting, police responded to reports of widespread vandalism just after midnight on North Michigan Avenue as hundreds of people, caught on video, swept through Chicago’s downtown, injuring 13 officers and damaging extensive amounts of property.
The tension between residents and law enforcement continued on Monday afternoon, as several heavily armed SWAT teams and other police came out in force to monitor closed down roads.
“We don't have enough fucking guys to hold every corner,” one Chicago Police officer yelled.
“Criminals took to the streets with the confidence that there would be no consequences for their actions,” Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown said at a Monday morning news conference. “This wasn’t an organized protest. It was an incident of pure criminality.”
Brown said the Sunday shooting occurred at around 2:30 p.m. when authorities responded to a call about an individual with a gun.
Keith Smith, a neighbor, told The Daily Beast that police responding to the Sunday call were “flying up the street” and even moved in on a corner in an way would have prompted anybody to “be scared and start running.”
“They didn’t have to roll up on him like that even if they thought he had a gun,” Smith, 49, said. “I think it caused him to panic.”
When deputies tried to control the 20-year-old man, he fled the scene and fired at officers during a foot chase, authorities said. Smith said he saw the man run around the corner—toward what he believes may have been an alley or vacant lot—before he heard shots.
The officers then returned fire, hitting the unidentified man, who authorities stated Monday has four previous arrests for burglary, child endangerment, and domestic battery. He was brought to a nearby hospital and is reported to be recovering.
Admitting that sometimes it feels as though the Englewood neighborhood is over-policed, Smith added that the destruction last night was likely stemmed from what he says are false reports the man shot was only 15 years old.
“Those reports set off a lot of people,” he said.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability, the city agency that investigates all officer-involved shootings, confirmed in a statement that the wounded male is an adult.
Brown said “tempers flared, fueled by misinformation” following the shooting, and dozens of residents gathered in Englewood in outrage. Police then started noticing social-media posts encouraging looting, he said.
While the crowd dissipated, police later noticed “several social media posts” prompting a planned looting along the Magnificent Mile, the 13-block stretch of high-end shopping outlets along North Michigan Avenue that runs to Lake Michigan. Brown said about 400 officers were deployed to the area, just as the first looting incident took place, and crowds of people began to smash windows and rush into storefronts on 87th Street and the Dan Ryan Expressway. Soon, Brown said, “car caravans were headed into the Loop” and began mass looting.
According to the Chicago Tribune, dozens of people were seen coming out of several high-end stores in the city’s shopping district, carrying bags full of merchandise. In several stores, empty cash drawers and ripped open ATMs were left behind. Witnesses told ABC 7 Chicago the looting was a “coordinated effort,” with multiple cars dropping off groups who would then break into stores and run off with merchandise before authorities would approach.
Videos of the chaos showed dozens of stores completely ransacked, including a Tesla office and a Gucci shop, with parking lots littered with glass and abandoned items.
“We are waking up in shock this morning. To be clear, this had nothing to do with legitimate protected First Amendment expression,” Mayor Lightfoot said Monday. “What occurred downtown and in surrounding communities was abject criminal behavior, pure and simple... This was straight-up felony criminal conduct.”
At around 4:30 a.m., nearly five hours into the vandalism, officers stopped several people on Lake Street near Michigan Avenue when shots were fired, authorities said. While officers returned fire, no officers were shot but several others were injured throughout the night.
A police spokesperson told The Daily Beast at least one officer was seen slumped against a building as officers tended to them during the pandemonium, though it is not immediately clear what happened to him. Another officer, authorities added, was maced and a third’s shoulder was injured.
On Monday morning, store owners and employees were left to pick up the pieces—sweeping up glass and surveying empty storefronts. Staffers of the family-owned Dalal Liquor store, which has been in business for 33 years, told The Daily Beast they are “shell-shocked” by the violence.
Brown said Monday that a heavy police presence is expected in the downtown area until further notice. The Chicago Transit Authority suspended train and bus service into downtown Monday morning, according to Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management & Communications, and the Illinois State Police blocked off ramps from expressways. Some bridges crossing the Chicago River were also raised.
At least two Chicago colleges campuses were also closed on Monday due to the previous night’s unrest, and City Hall employees were told to work from home “due to restricted access to downtown,” according to NBC Chicago.
Brown also announced Monday that access to downtown would be “restricted” and there will be heavy police presence starting at 8 p.m. until 6 a.m. on Tuesday.
Calling for the public to help apprehend the looters, Lightfoot stressed Monday that Chicago is “not going to let our city be taken over by criminals and vigilantes.
That mayor said that despite calls from local leaders and business owners to call in the National Guard, she decided against the request after speaking with Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
“Both of us believe this is not an incident that requires the National Guard,” Lightfoot said. “We do not need federal troops in Chicago. Period. Full stop.”
Brown and Lightfoot also called upon Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to handle the arrests, arguing that previous detentions by Chicago Police from looting in May and June after George Floyd was killed were not handled correctly.
“I pledge to pursue these offenders to the fullest extent of the law,” Brown said. “[The Chicago Police Department] will not stand by as our beautiful downtown becomes some place people fear.”