West Side Shootout Ratchets Up Tension Between Lightfoot, Foxx While Derailing Budget Hearing

(WTTW News)(WTTW News)

The aftermath of a violent confrontation between two groups on Chicago’s West Side sidetracked a City Council hearing on Monday designed to examine the $1.9 billion budget for the Chicago Police Department in 2022 and ratcheted up tension between Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.

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One man was killed in the shooting that occurred about 10:30 a.m. Friday in the 1200 block of North Mason Avenue. Four people got out of two vehicles and shot into a home, while people inside also fired weapons at the cars, police said. The man who was killed was outside the home, while two people who were injured were inside the house, police said.

The confrontation was captured by city surveillance cameras, and witnessed by several Chicago Police officers. Approximately 70 rounds of ammunition were fired, according to the mayor’s office.

Despite that, the state’s attorney’s office declined to bring charges against any of the people arrested in connection with the incident, prompting an angry response from members of the Chicago City Council and Lightfoot.

Before Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown could answer a single question about the department’s proposed budget of $1.9 billion, Ald. Chris Taliaferro called the shooting in his 29th Ward and the fact that those involved would not face felony charges “very horrific” and predicted that those involved would soon commit other violent crimes.

At an unrelated news conference, Lightfoot called on Foxx — with whom she has clashed repeatedly since taking office — to get personally involved in the case and reconsider the decision to release two of those arrested in connection with the shootout.

“And I believe that there are charges that can be brought at a minimum against the individuals who initiated the gunfire,” Lightfoot said. “We can’t live in a world where there’s no accountability.”

Lightfoot later released a letter she signed along with five West Side aldermen telling Foxx that her decision was not supported by Brown or Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan.

However, Deenihan told members of the City Council that while the shootout was captured on video, the footage “was not enough to put a gun in anyone’s hand or charge anyone specifically for murder.”

Foxx said in a statement she was “unclear” on why the mayor, a former federal prosecutor, would make statements “absent the full information that was presented to our office by CPD.”

“The facts the mayor presented today simply are not in line with what was presented to us by CPD, and not born out by the evidence we received,” Foxx said. “The detectives reached out to our office on Friday and acknowledged at the outset that given the chaotic nature at the scene they were unable to determine how the events unfolded.”

Foxx’s statement included a pointed reminder that she knew the mayor was aware “of the ethical obligation of the prosecutor to only bring forth charges where the facts, evidence, and law support it.”

Foxx said Lightfoot, who endorsed her 2020 bid for reelection, “is also fully aware that as a prosecutor we are obligated not to try cases in the media.”

The violent shootout and the lack of felony charges appeared to exacerbate the increasing pressure on Lightfoot and members of the Chicago City Council to reduce violent crime that has soared to levels last seen in the 1990s.

Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th Ward) urged Brown to convene a summit of agencies and social service organizations dedicated to reducing crime to develop new solutions.

“I feel like not enough people are engaged in this,” said O’Shea. “This should be the No. 1 priority in the city right now for every single elected official.

O’Shea dismissed much of the budget information provided by Brown and his command staff as immaterial to the fight against violence. 

“I’m just frustrated that I’ve heard so much fluff here today,” said O’Shea, calling Chicago the “most dangerous city” in America, even though data does not support that assertion.

The mayor’s proposed spending plan increases the budget for the Chicago Police Department by $189 million in 2022 as compared with 2021’s budget of $1.7 billion.  

More than 75% of that increase —$142 million — will cover the cost of the pay raise called for in the new contract approved earlier this month by the City Council. 

In addition, the budget will cover the cost of adding 11 new mental health clinicians, to allow the department to assign one to each of the city’s 22 police districts. Lightfoot has made improving the mental health of officers a priority.

Three officers have died by suicide this year, according to department officials. 

Brown also pledged to fill the department’s 1,000 vacancies as quickly as possible, and urged the alderpeople to get the word out about upcoming entrance exams.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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