CHICAGO — A popular Lakeview comics shop suffered thousands of dollars in damages after a large group of people attacked a woman in the store after the Pride Parade.
The area around Chicago Comics, 3244 N. Clark St., “got a little nuts” shortly after officials said the parade would be canceled because of rain Sunday, said Raphael Espinoza, who’s worked at the comic shop for more than a decade. The attack on the woman left him and other Chicago Comics employees shaken and dealing with damages of $2,500-$3,000, he said.
At about 4 p.m. Sunday, a woman came into the store looking “exasperated,” Espinoza said. She asked employees to call 911 and went to the back of the store; shortly afterward, two or three friends of hers came in and also asked employees to call 911.
Espinoza was going to call the police when about 20 people “stormed through the front door,” knocking over glass display cases as they sought out the woman who had come in first, Espinoza said.
Espinoza tried to block the group from getting to the woman and her friends and the group’s members threatened him.
“‘No, you’re not going to get past me,'” Espinoza said he told the crowd. “I don’t know what’s happening but there [were] way more people trying to come after this individual and no matter what the circumstances that doesn’t seem like a fair situation.”
But some of the crowd members went down a different aisle to get to the woman. The crowd cornered the woman and about three of them started spraying her with pepper spray while the others grabbed hardcovers books and products and threw it at her.
The group got spooked — possibly by someone saying they’d called 911, Espinoza said — and went outside. Espinoza tried to lock them out but they threatened him again, saying they’d break down the doors to get to the woman.
It wasn’t until there was a siren in the distance that the group’s members ran off.
Espinoza locked the door and checked on the woman, who was begging for an ambulance, he said. Her face was red, her eyes bloodshot and she was crying for help.
Espinoza told the woman and her friends not to leave until an ambulance came to the door because he could still see members of the group circling the store.
It was about 15 minutes before the ambulance got to Chicago Comics and the woman was taken off to a hospital.
Police said the incident was reported to them: A 19-year-old woman told investigators a woman was following her so she ran into the store at about 4:10 p.m., but the woman confronted her there and sprayed mace in her face. The victim tried to run off again but the attacker kept spraying mace in her face down the street.
The 19-year-old was taken to Illinois Masonic Hospital and was treated, police said.
“It was a lot to process. It was a lot to figure out what was going on, but a lot of it was things I wasn’t gonna get answers for, like why they were chasing her. What happened?” Espinoza said. “A lot of it was trying to figure out what the next step was.”
Espinoza said the customers who were left in the store helped him clean and were still interested in buying items, which helped the shop. The estimate of $2,500-$3,000 in damages covers ruined comic books, hardcovers and knickknacks and doesn’t take into account the display cases that were broken, he said.
The shop’s employees, including Espinoza, were unharmed but were shocked at what happened and the threats that had been leveled against them. He doesn’t know what happened, if anything, between the woman and the large group that led to the attack.
“We were just a little bit shook over the situation and how fast it escalated and just how quickly everything happened,” Espinoza said. “I think we’re mostly just mentally shook, but physically we are fine.”
Chicago Comics has never experienced anything similar at Pride, Espinoza said, though a fight outside the shop during the TBOX bar crawl did result in its windows being broken years ago.
Espinoza said those interested in helping the store should keep shopping at comics shops and supporting Chicago Comics.
Chicago Comics is open noon-8 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays and noon-7 p.m. Sundays.