WICKER PARK — City leaders are taking steps to protect Wicker Park’s namesake park after a Park District staffer was attacked there last week.
The Park District’s security team assigned an officer to Wicker Park during hours of operation to place “special attention” on protecting park employees, spokeswoman Michele Lemons confirmed by email.
The Chicago Park District employee — who police say was punched and kicked by a man Tuesday morning in Wicker Park — was not seriously injured as of Thursday, Lemons said.
David Williams, 32, was arrested 11:15 a.m. Tuesday on charges of battery and violating his bail bond, police said. He was also cited with a city ordinance violation for public urination.
Williams is also accused of robbing a 7-Eleven repeatedly over the past two weeks. The alleged attack on Tuesday occurred just one hour after Williams allegedly stole from a 7-Eleven, 1508 N. Damen Ave., for what store owner Harish Doshi said was the seventh time in 11 days.
During that theft, Williams told Doshi, “You bitch, I’m going to kill you,” Doshi said. Williams then kicked in the cashiers’ plexiglass barrier, the store’s security camera footage shows.
That theft was the second time Williams had threatened to kill Doshi and the first time he had actually become violent, Doshi said.
Police arrested Williams twice Oct. 9 after the first allegations he stole from the store, but he was released.
The escalation of violence during Williams’ thefts — coupled with the recent killing of Wicker Park Walgreens employee Olga Calderon — had left the store’s cashiers on edge.
In an emailed statement, Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) said he was “deeply concerned” about the “pattern of violent criminal behavior” at the store and in Wicker Park over the past several weeks.
“My office is coordinating between the Park District, the 14th District police and the owner of the 711 to make sure we’re creating a safe and healthy environment for everyone,” he said.
Doshi, who has owned the 7-Eleven since 2015, said he cannot afford an armed security guard to protect the store. He did, however, purchase a $4,000 magnetic lock that requires customers to ring a doorbell before entering the store.
The lock gives “store employees a little more assurance when they are working by themselves,” Doshi said in a text message.
‘You don’t know who’s capable of doing what anymore’
Williams first allegedly stole from the store about 8:15 a.m. Oct. 9. He allegedly stole at least four bottles of wine totaling roughly $100. He was arrested by police and released with a ticket, records show.
Police arrested Williams a second time the same day after he went to the store, was drunk, belligerent and stole multiple wine bottles, Doshi said. He was released from a police station via a $1,500 cashless bond, records show.
An I-bond, or “individual bond,” is also known as a personal recognizance bond. It orders a person to return for a court date, but, unlike other bonds, does not require any cash to be held as collateral.
The decision to release Williams on an I-Bond was in line with policy set by the State’s Attorney’s Office, Sgt. Rocco Alioto said by email.
When State’s Attorney Kim Foxx took office in 2016, a person would need to steal more than $300 in merchandise to be charged with a felony. Foxx changed the policy to raise the threshold to $1,000, a move that allowed prosecutors to focus on the “drivers of violence” rather than nonviolent offenses, spokeswoman Tandra Simonton said by email.
In this case, the State’s Attorney’s Office was never contacted by police to consider felony charges, which are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
Since being released the second time, Williams returned to steal from the store 5 p.m. Oct. 10, 3:50 p.m. Oct. 11 and 10:15 a.m. Tuesday, according to police reports. Police reports were not filed for an additional two thefts, Doshi said.
After one theft, Doshi said he tried chasing Williams out of the store. Williams turned to Doshi and screamed, “I’m going to smack you. I’m going to kill you,” the store owner said.
Doshi said Williams never steals more than a $100 worth of wine at at time. But after what happened to Calderon at the nearby Walgreens, cashier Carmen Cruz said she worried the criminal justice system was cutting Williams too much slack.
In the case of the killing at Walgreens, detectives believe Sincere Williams — the man charged with killing Calderon — robbed the the store twice the week before the slaying.
“You don’t know who’s capable of doing what anymore,” she said. “What about the safety of the people who have to live with it, and deal with it?”
Williams’ court hearing for the Oct. 9 shoplifting charge was set for 2:30 p.m. Nov. 2. It’s not clear when his hearing for the Tuesday battery charge will take place.
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