Scene of the Crime (BIG Post)
Apologies in advance to Tribune reporters Peter Nickeas and Jason Wambsgans, but we are going to pretty much link and steal your entire article from the triple shooting in 011 Saturday night. Nickeas has gotten quite a few compliments on this site and he writes as close to a coppers point-of-view as we've seen any reporter in this town do in years. That's not just us talking - he's actually been called a "gentleman" at crime scenes, which is saying something.
- "I know who did the shooting," the woman said with a sneer. "Do you?" The sergeant stood across yellow tape, and a delayed look of bewilderment briefly overtook his face before he asked, "Well, are you going to tell me?" The woman said nothing. She kept walking.
Right there, that tells you just about everything you need to know at a west side or south side crime scene. They tell you they know more than you, they revel in their knowledge of what happened, and then they walk away. We deal with this constantly.
- Moments before the woman taunted the officer, neighborhood resident Lou Norris and the sergeant – one who's been doing the job long enough for the dark chevrons on his shoulder to fade into a powder blue – talked about life for a few minutes.
They stood next to a green light pole and traded theories about how this came to be: Three people being shot here, including a 73-year-old grandmother.
Chaos followed the shooting, with people testing the boundaries of the crime scene on different sides at the same time. The sight of a scuffle or an officer running sent a dozen more off in the same direction as police tried to lock the scene down. The ambulances lined up on Pulaski, two facing north and one south, and police had to yell at people lingering in the street to move so ambulances could leave.
People yelled threats at the police. They shouted slurs and curse words and at various points in the night, six people were cuffed until things calmed down. Some invoked the shooting death of a teen in Missouri and walked away with their hands in the air while taunting police. The scene would stay testy for about two hours.
Norris, in a clean white T-shirt, dark jeans, black construction boots and a flat-brimmed White Sox hat, shook his head as he and the sergeant solved life's problems after most of the hundreds of people had dispersed. The two agreed: Kids need more attention. They need more discipline. They need love. The constant exposure and access to violence is messing with their development. The willingness to shoot instead of fight is not how it always was.
A copper, the sergeant in this case, latches onto one of the calmer citizens there, maybe someone he knows from around the hood, one of the ones not making noise, whooping and hollering. Get a patter going, feel it out, see who's been shooting lately, who's on the outs, who's moving in or fresh from jail. Tape goes up, assholes try to breach the scene, pushing, shoving, as if they could solve it all - and they could, if they'd speak up...but they won't. And out comes the Ferguson bullshit hands in the air....as if the police came by and lit grandma up. We'll be seeing that one for years, even after they clear the officer.
- What brought Norris and the sergeant together was a burst of gunfire that left behind groups of shell casings at the corner of Pulaski Road and Arthington Street at the north end of the Lawndale neighborhood. Police said at least two people opened fire during a party being thrown by the food and liquor store here, an annual gesture meant to show the community the store's appreciation. Kids were out but none hit.
The 73-year-old who was shot was already ill, according to Shay Griggs, the woman who taunted the sergeant. She's the woman's granddaughter.
Stop right there and think about that. The woman from the first paragraph, the one taunting the sergeant with what she knew? That was her 73-year-old grandma that got shot. And she ain't gonna share shit with the police. She's going to whisper it to someone else with a gun and they're probably going to go and shoot the shooter. That right there is what we see, feel, experience every single day, yet we can't recall even one instance of something like this appearing in the media. Sure, they might do a fluff piece about a lack of info/cooperation, but a story where the reporter (Nickeas?) actually witnesses the hoodrat telling the sergeant how much he doesn't know?And then she makes more appearances once she finds a reporter:
- "She said, 'Something's wrong with my back.' And the kids started crying," Griggs said.
Griggs, who had taunted police at other times throughout the night, said she doesn't know who was shooting. The tussling at the scene reflected a deep divide between officers and residents. Some on each side – and they often are diametrically opposed to each other – understand the intensity that follows shootings.
"What are you blaming us for – we didn't shoot her," one officer said to Griggs earlier in the night. Arguments often follow. Some officers won't engage with belligerent residents. Some residents seek to calm down their neighbors. But some residents try to get a rise out of the officers, some officers respond in kind and the situation worsens. Investigators said that, of the hundreds of people who were outside when the shooting happened, they had a difficult time finding witnesses. It's not an uncommon refrain.
So now she doesn't know shit. Amazing. She obviously doesn't realize that at least one of the reporters saw her tell the sergeant what she knew and the reporters have been keeping an eye on her taunting the police, then playing weeping granddaughter, then taunting some more.
- This sergeant who talked with Norris often engages with residents in a way a lot of cops won't. He'll suffer a fool longer than some colleagues and chance a conversation with someone who is dancing on the edge of reasonable. It happened half a dozen times in 15 minutes on Pulaski – with a man who claimed to have a gun and ID card at home, with another man over the use of the n-word, with women who felt disrespected by officers who laughed at the scene.
Norris tries to keep kids off the streets, steering them away from the violence gripping the neighborhood, and beams when talking about the kids who've said to him, "Unc, you see what I'm doing? I'm back in school." Norris, a 53-year-old who had had been shot before, lifted his shirt, revealing a long scar up the center of his abdomen and a couple of bellybutton-like holes.
"I whooped a guy –" here Norris raised two fists like he's used them before – "and they came back on me with a .45 (caliber handgun) with a hollow tip (round)." He works construction in the neighborhood and schools the kids when he's out and about. "I try to get 'em back to school, get 'em off the corners," he said.
Before leaving he grabbed the sergeant again to say goodbye and stepped away. The two sounded like old friends by the time they finished talking.
Ghetto drama - "I got a gun at home." "My ID is in my other pants." "Did you hear what he called me?" "Why they laughin' that grandmama got shot?" We've heard it all and if you've worked any ghetto, you've heard it all and more. But Nickeas (and maybe Wambsgans) know that most of their readers haven't, and they capture it like you remember it. Then come the crazies.
- The skirmishes at the scene were many and the chaos that followed the shooting, though not uncommon, was more intense and spread out over a wider area than is normal. And after police had finally set up a huge crime scene and chased people out at Taser point – red dots on white T-shirts abounded – the group stumbled upon an Hispanic man on the ground, face up, arms and legs spread as if if he about to create a snow angel.
His yellow lab sat next to him in the middle of the road, more calm than any of the humans nearby. Those hustled away from the expanded crime scene gawked and jeered at the man, who most thought was a lush who had fallen out drunk. A few minutes earlier, the man, who appeared to be in his 30s, had walked down Pulaski with his dog and a military bearing, arms and legs swinging like a metronome, and exchanged a handshake and a hug with an officer at the edge.
He wore shorts, sneakers, gray socks and a T-shirt that looked tailored over his thick frame. The man talked for a few minutes with the officer before turning around with his dog and walking away. A couple car lengths away, he yelled: "Stop! Stop the shooting!" He waved his arms. "You gotta stop all the shooting!" He jumped up and down, stomping his feet on the ground. Not 30 seconds later he was sprawled around the ground on Pulaski, unmoving, and his dog was just looking at him.
"Man down," one onlooker yelled as cops jogged over to him. A woman laughed and yelled, "He's just trying to get a ride home. Look at his dog playing along." The dog sat calmly as an officers checked for signs of life. They checked his pockets, tried addressing him by name. He didn't move. Then, with officers standing over him, he kicked back to life, going into fight mode, rolling over into police and trying to hug his dog as if to protect him from the crowd around him. He rolled on the ground, his head tucked, eyes closed.
The dog didn't move as officers moved to subdue the man. It didn't bark during the entire ordeal, remaining calm under his owner's embrace. "At ease!" one officer yelled, a command used in the military to return a serviceman from attention to a resting position. "At ease! At ease!" And like someone snapped fingers, the man stopped moving. Police identified him the man as a prior-service Marine with a service dog. A deep scar stretched from his right ear up across the top of his scalp where his hairline would start. The dog sat as paramedics tended to the man and tugged at the leash as he was wheeled into the ambulance. And when it left, south on Pulaski, an officer walked the dog north toward a car. Every couple steps, the dog tugged a bit and turned around toward the ambulance, sirens blaring, as it moved toward Mount Sinai Hospital.
And finally, just the juvies, drunks and assholes looking for a thrill:
- The sergeant's patience had worn thin. Ninety minutes after the shooting, a kid tested the edge of the crime scene and the sergeant grabbed him by his shirt, pulled him into the scene and put him against his squad car in cuffs. "Alright, anybody else? Who wants to join him? You're all juveniles, you're all curfews," he said. The group jogged away and giggled. The boy arrested was fifteen.
Officers who guarded the scene as the crowd dwindled also left, leaving behind a core group of district officers tasked with making sure the half-block long perimeter wasn't breached. One woman threw a glass bottle at a passing car as someone inside took pictures. The car took off, turning toward the Eisenhower Expressway on Pulaski, and another bottle took flight, crashing down against a police department Tahoe as half a dozen officers looked on.
A couple people yelled there was a gun in the departing car. There weren't enough officers to make an arrest, though. Police have to pick battles. There were more residents than officers and if the woman who had thrown the bottle resisted, there wouldn't have been enough officers to subdue her, guard the scene and keep a small crowd back. Another woman made fun of the fact that the woman's poor aim had sent an empty liquor bottle into a squad car. The woman who chucked the bottle tried to fade back into the small crowd.
Odds are the shooter turns up shot himself in short order. Exceptionally Cleared/Closed and the beat goes on. This story repeats itself nearly daily and is one of the reasons coppers burn out and bid for more peaceable districts when they can. It something that the so-called "normal" people will never see...or will never believe.