ENGLEWOOD — The widespread looting of Downtown was kicked off Sunday afternoon when police officers shot and wounded a Black man in Englewood, leading to angry confrontations, a flurry of social media posts and violence and destruction.
The fact that police shot 20-year-old Latrell Allen is not disputed. But as misinformation spread across the neighborhood and social media — and in the absence of video evidence — many questions remain.
Allen survived the shooting and is expected to recover. Police have said Allen shot at officers during a foot chase, and he’s been charged with two counts of attempted murder and one count of unlawful use of a weapon. Police posted a photo of a gun they said they found on the scene.
Allen’s family and a neighbor who said she witnessed the shooting dispute the police narrative. Latricsa Allen told the Tribune her son tried to give up running before he was shot by police. Her son told her in the hospital he didn’t have a gun.
Just after a crowd of neighbors gathered at the scene of the shooting Sunday, misinformation began to spread. False rumors spread that the victim was a 15-year-old boy whom police shot 15 times, and that he had been killed.
Englewood activist Joe Williams rushed to 57th Street and Racine Avenue near Moran Park to help deescalate rising tensions between neighbors and police, he said. While misinformation fueled neighbors’ anger, Williams said police didn’t do anything to deescalate the tension and met protesters with violence.
“People were mad because of the police response. There’s no excuse for the police to handle things the way they did,” said Williams, founder of Mr. Dad’s Father’s Club.
Police also could’ve gotten ahead of the misinformation by being more transparent and releasing accurate information about the police shooting immediately, Williams said.
On the scene Sunday afternoon, Area 1 Deputy Chief Yolanda Talley said emotional neighbors were responding to “misinformation.” But she didn’t outright offer evidence the man shot wasn’t 15. Talley said the man shot was in his late teens or early 20s.
It wasn’t until the next morning, Monday, that police said his exact age and said he was alive. The man shot was 20 years old.
In the hours between the shooting and when police released the man’s age, rumors that a 15-year-old boy was killed by police spread like wildfire.
And on Monday night, the agency investigating the shooting revealed another troubling detail: Officers involved in the shooting were not wearing body cameras, potentially making it impossible to ever know what really happened.
The agency, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, asked people with information about the shooting to reach out and help with the investigation.
“There are moments when we need help from the public because police accountability takes us all and we encourage anyone with information about this shooting to contact our office,” said COPA Public Information Officer Ephraim Eaddy in a statement.
People with relevant information or video are urged to call 312-743-2672 or email COPAfirstname.lastname@example.org.
Social Media Spread
The shooting happened about 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the 5700 block of South Racine Avenue.
Police received calls of a man with a gun and went to Englewood, where they saw a man who matched the description officers had been given, Supt. David Brown said at a Monday press conference. What happened is disputed, but Brown said Allen ran off, pointed a gun at chasing officers and fired shots. Officers shot him.
Allen was hit in his shoulder, hospitalized and is expected to recover, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday.
There is no body camera footage of the shooting to show what did happen, but COPA said there is video footage from an overhead blue light camera that captured part of the chase.
Almost immediately, false rumors about the shooting began to spread on social media.
At 3:10 p.m., one man started streaming on Facebook Live, calling the stream, “15 year old shot 15 times by u know who.” He captured footage of the scene at 56th and Aberdeen streets. In the video, he told others in the crowd that was forming about the shooting and accused police officers of misconduct.
The video had more than 665,000 views as of Monday evening. Within half an hour of its posting, the false claims of the victim’s age and the number of times he was hit were circulating on Twitter.
A followup video claimed “shorty died y’all” and showed more footage from the scene but no evidence that the person shot by police had died.
Hours later, two videos posted by a self-proclaimed influencer claimed “police just killed a 15-year-old Black boy in Chicago.”
The two videos, which called on viewers to “SHARE THIS PLEASE !!!” and follow the page for continued updates, garnered more than 125,000 views in total. A follow-up posted an hour later, captioned “Police just shot this boy,” doesn’t claim the victim was killed and only received 23,000 views.
The original poster never made a retraction, and the videos continued to spread.
That false, viral narrative persisted throughout Monday, as activists and community groups took to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to say a 15-year-old boy had been murdered by police.
‘These Cops Intimidated And Beat People’
But activists say while misinformation did spread, police — not members of the crowd — are to blame for escalating the situation.
Neighborhood residents gathered at the scene to get answers about what happened, but police tried to intimidate members of the crowd, beat them and intensified the situation, Black Lives Matter Chicago members said in a statement.
“After police shot this young man, members of the Englewood community are traumatized and want answers,” the statement said. “The people of Englewood showed up immediately because they wanted to protect their community members from harm.
“CPD, meanwhile, was only interested in protecting itself; their response to these bystanders was sending in hundreds of officers with assault rifles, tear gas, and batons. These cops intimidated and beat people for nothing more than being at the scene of CPD’s violence.”
An online video clip from the scene appears to show an officer pushing the person filming, after which they drop their phone. Another officer kicks the phone as he walks by, and a third officer picks it up before the video ends.
Tamera Smith, an Englewood resident, said her cousin filmed the video. She, her cousin and another man were in a heated exchange with police when an officer grabbed her cousin, she said.
“I could tell they wanted to grab him. When they grabbed him, they slammed him in the crowd,” Smith said. “Someone struck him, and someone else put a foot on his neck.”
The other man had his cellphone taken by police and his videos were deleted, Smith said.
Smith said she could do nothing but watch as her cousin was battered for several minutes, blood running down his face. When the officers finally took him away, they wouldn’t tell Smith or other family members where he’d be detained, she said.
A police leader told Smith that he would try to get her cousin released, she said, but as of Monday afternoon she didn’t know where he was or if he’d been charged with anything.
Williams arrived on the scene in time to see an officer put a foot on a man’s neck, he said. He called several other activists in the area, including Tio Hardiman, to defuse the situation.
In a matter of minutes, they were able to clear the streets so the officers could leave the area safely, Williams said.
While Williams believes people streaming false information fueled the night of civil unrest in Chicago, he blamed police for not trying to defuse the situation or work with activists to get out accurate information.
“If you’re going to put up a line of defense, protect the crime scene. If you’re going to have your community engagement outside, why aren’t they sharing this information with the community? Why isn’t someone working with the community so that they can be in the know?” Williams said.
The rumors at least in part fueled looting Downtown. Some of the people looting told a reporter they came Downtown in response to the police shooting in Englewood.
Brown did not go into detail Monday about what happened in Englewood, but he said “tempers flared” and there were “very intense” interactions between the crowd and police. Soon after, police saw social media posts encouraging people to loot Downtown, he said.
Though the bulk of that night and Monday morning’s looting was centered on the Loop and surrounding area, the neighborhoods saw some looting and vandalism, as well. More than 100 people were arrested, two people were shot and 13 Chicago Police officers were injured, Brown said.
Lightfoot said officers have shown “professionalism throughout these very difficult times, not just last night.” She called on the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to prosecute people who looted, saying residents and police feel unsafe.
Black Lives Matter Chicago criticized Lightfoot for focusing on looting and damage in the Loop rather than on the fact Chicago police shot “yet another” Black man.
“Righteous and justified anger — like the kind expressed after the police murder of Laquan McDonald and subsequent cover-up — has proven to be the only tool for police accountability that the public has at their disposal,” the group said in its statement. “The mayor cannot expect people to play by her rules as she refuses to treat them with basic dignity.
“These protests can only end when the safety and wellbeing of our communities is finally prioritized.”
The experience has traumatized Smith, who said she cannot shake the image of the officer who battered her cousin smirking at her.
“We were yelling at him, asking him how he could do something like that, and he was just smiling,” Smith said. “They’re doing whatever they want. Teasing and taunting people whenever they want. We’re tired of it.”
While accounts of what unfolded Sunday afternoon vary, Ray Farhoud, owner of Sharif Food and Liquor, said Allen was a regular customer who never gave him problems.
“They said he was shooting, but we wouldn’t know. We weren’t out there,” said Farhoud, who has run the store at the corner of 57th Street and Racine Avenue for more than 30 years. “We never had a problem with him.”
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