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Albany Park

Cops Raid Albany Park Apartment Where Landlord Says He’s Struggling To Kick Out Squatters: ‘This Has Been Unfolding For Months’

Landlord Gary Carlson had been trying to evict two men who pushed out a tenant and took over their apartment before police arrested them Friday.

Gary Carlson's property in the 4400 block of North Lawndale Avenue on June 29, 2021.
Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago
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ALBANY PARK —  Two men were arrested last week after police raided an Albany Park apartment owned by a landlord who has been criticized for lax security of his properties, including last year when a firefighter was shot near one of his buildings and a woman was murdered inside another. 

Police raided a third-floor apartment at the 4400 block of North Lawndale Avenue around noon Friday. Officers arrested Karris Turner, 31, and Terrence Cole, 27, and recovered 26 grams of heroin, 13 grams of crack cocaine and $2,000 in a safe, according to the Sun-Times

Landlord Gary Carlson owns at least 60 buildings with more than 500 apartments in and around Albany Park and Irving Park, including the Lawndale Avenue building, according to a 2016 investigation by the Sun-Times and the Better Government Association. Carlson’s buildings have logged hundreds of code violations over the years, but all issues were quickly resolved, the report found. 

Reached by phone Monday, Carlson said Turner and Cole were squatting in the apartment after chasing out the tenant. He said he has spent months trying to evict the two from the unit.

“(Police) did not want to do anything regarding the squatters at first so I had to file suit against them to kick them out,” Carlson said. “But everybody’s still blaming me.”

A police spokesperson did not comment on Carlson’s allegations or say what prompted officers to raid the building Friday. But neighbors have been complaining to police and Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) for months about illicit activity at Carlson’s Lawndale Avenue property.

“This has been unfolding for months. It’s basically a gang war over who can sell drugs here,” said one neighbor, who witnessed the raid and asked to not be identified. “I know Gary called the police too and tried to get those guys out.”

This isn’t the first time Carlson has accused people of violently pushing out one of his tenants and taking over an apartment. 

After the firefighter was shot in front of his 3359 W. Wilson Ave. building, Carlson told Block Club he’d been complaining to police for months about squatters pushing out an elderly tenant but police didn’t do anything until after the high profile shooting made headlines.

Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd) and her staff reprimanded Carlson and told him to do a better job of securing his buildings. But later that month 27-year-old Stephanie Brooks was fatally shot in the chest while trying to keep a gunman from entering a friend’s apartment in the 4400 block of North Francisco Avenue — another building Carlson owns.

Brooks did not live in the apartment, but Hollis Williams — the other man charged with shooting a fireman near Carlson’s Wilson property weeks before — did live at the Ravenswood Manor address.

In response to problems and complaints at the Lawndale Avenue property, Ramirez-Rosa said Monday he had the city move a police surveillance camera to the front of the building in March.

After that, the people reportedly squatting in the third-floor apartment set up their own cameras in the windows to monitor police activity outside the building, the neighbor said. 

“Before the city moved the camera, police were parked out here like every day. Once the camera got moved police stopped coming by all the time,” the neighbor said. “I think they wanted to let the guys get comfortable and figure out their pattern or something. The day of the raid, the police knew about the cameras the guys had set up in the windows so they entered the building from the alley. There were like 12 cop cars that showed up.”

Ramirez-Rosa said he and police spoke to Carlson about the squatting situation in March and also told him he needed to better safeguard his properties and residents. Ramirez-Rosa also said he explained the eviction moratorium in place because of the pandemic has an exemption for public safety issues. 

After that, Carlson launched legal action to evict Turner and Cole, the alderman said.

“He was initially under the impression that because of the eviction moratorium there was nothing that he could do,” Ramirez-Rosa said.

The most recent hearing about the people in the Lawndale Avenue apartment was June 14, Ramirez-Rosa said. Carlson said he was told the people illegally living in the apartment had to be out by Aug. 15.

Meanwhile, Ramirez-Rosa said he is in ongoing talks with Carlson about how to upgrade safety for his residents.

“The city’s law department has been working with our offices, Mr. Carlson and his attorney to come to an agreement in terms of the next steps that have to be taken to secure his properties moving forward,” Ramirez-Rosa said. “Those conversations are ongoing but there are a number of things that we’ve discussed that would go into a signed agreement with him.”

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