CHICAGO — State’s Attorney Kim Foxx heavily criticized Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday, saying the mayor was “wrong” to call for charges in a West Side shooting and said things that are untrue.
Foxx held a rare news conference to respond to Lightfoot’s own barbs from Monday: The mayor, speaking at an unrelated event, said she was concerned Foxx’s office didn’t press charges in the shooting and she did not understand that decision.
But the State’s Attorney’s Office has not ruled out pressing charges in the case — they told police they’d need more evidence for murder charges, and police agreed, Foxx said. Foxx compared Lightfoot’s remarks to a political stunt.
Lightfoot’s comments were “inappropriate. It was wrong,” Foxx said. “We will continue to work with our partners in law enforcement to ensure that the necessary work is done so that we may bring charges and, ultimately, secure a conviction for those who engage in the violence that we have seen across this city.
“That is our mission. It is not to try cases in the media nor to play politics on the deaths of children and veterans and people in our community.”
Foxx also criticized Lightfoot, herself a former prosecutor, for talking about the case publicly, saying it could damage efforts to bring to justice the people involved in the shooting if they are charged.
“We cannot play games,” Foxx said. “We must operate as the professionals we are. And that means, as prosecutors, we don’t engage on the facts and the evidence on the case in the media. And we would expect that our partners, especially those who served as prosecutors, would recognize that — and, more importantly, … tell the truth.”
Foxx said she is requesting a meeting with Lightfoot, Supt. David Brown and police officials from Area 5 to discuss her concerns with leaks from that area and with officers’ investigations there.
The shooting in question happened Friday morning in the 1200 block of North Mason Avenue. Officers there saw four people get out of two cars and shoot into a home on the block; people inside the home then shot back, hitting one man, police said. The other gunmen took off in their cars.
The man was pronounced dead at a hospital. Two people from inside the home were also shot and were hospitalized.
One of the people who had been in a car and two people from the home were taken into custody, police said. A police camera also recorded the shooting.
No charges have been filed against those people or others.
Lightfoot said the lack of charges could make offenders feel as if the criminal justice system is not going to hold them accountable, which could “send this city into chaos.”
“We really urge the state’s attorney herself to get personally involved, look at the evidence. And I believe that there are charges that can be brought at a minimum against the individuals who initiated the gunfire,” Lightfoot said Monday.
Foxx said in a Monday statement that detectives met with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and “acknowledged at the outset” they weren’t yet certain how the shooting unfolded. The officials reviewed the evidence and, “in consultation with the detectives,” prosecutors and police agreed they could not yet approve charges for murder, Foxx said.
Lightfoot wasn’t alone in her criticism: She and several aldermen sent a letter to Foxx’s office asking her to charge people in the shooting.
And at a police budget hearing Monday, Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) questioned why charges hadn’t been brought in the case, saying he is worried there will be more violence.
Brown told alderpeople the shooting was between “mutual combatants,” making it difficult to determine who’d started the violence and who was acting in self-defense. Police try to get everyone charged in those instances, he said.
“We want to charge everyone, we want the judge and the courts to sort it out, not to anticipate what might happen before a jury or a judge,” Brown said. At another point, he said, “Likely, there are things we need to do more to present the case. And we’re willing to do that.”
Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan also told alderpeople the evidence was “convoluted” because the police camera didn’t clearly show who was firing and the arrested people did not speak to investigators.
“Specifically for this case, you can’t determine who is discharging a firearm on the street from those cars,” Deenihan said. “Even the victims who were shot refused to talk to police, and [they invoked] their right to remain silent. And that’s where it gets difficult for the detectives to present a case … .”
In Lightfoot and the alderpeople’s letter to Foxx, they said Brown and Deenihan did not support the lack of charges in the case and at least want lesser charges.
Foxx, asked about that Tuesday, said the case was brought to her office for murder charges, but they’re looking at everything.
The American Civil Liberties Union’s Illinois branch also criticized Lightfoot’s comments, saying Lightfoot and Brown “need to end the finger-pointing.”
“The reality, as acknowledged by [Brown], is that the Chicago police did not really do a complete investigation of the events, opting instead to arrest an entire group of people in hopes that a jury can ‘sort out’ the facts,” the ACLU said in a statement. “That approach may work in the movies, but not under our constitutional system.
“It is the responsibility of police to conduct a complete and thorough investigation as regularly happens in other neighborhoods, including the Gold Coast and River North. The residents of Austin deserve for [the Police Department] to take this care and concern, not simply sweep up young men and send them off to be incarcerated. If we permit the arrest of people without any real understanding of whether they committed a crime, we are betraying the basic tenets of our criminal legal system.”
Lightfoot and Foxx, both Democrats, have had a rocky relationship, though Lightfoot endorsed Foxx during her contentious re-election bid in 2019.
But as violence surged in 2020 and 2021, the mayor and Brown have pointed fingers at the justice system, saying violent offenders are being released by lenient judges and it is contributing to gun crime.
But they have not provided evidence of those claims — and studies have shown they are not true. A report from Loyola University found just 3 percent of defendants let out on bond committed another offense during their pre-trial period.
Foxx brought up those issues during Tuesday’s news conference, saying officials need to “stop with the anecdotes … and tell the truth.”
Part of the issue is people are looking for quick fixes — but the reality is Chicagoans are struggling with disinvestment, trauma, mental health and housing issues whilst in the midst of a pandemic, and violence has risen all over the United States, Foxx said.
Foxx said her office looked at police data from when she took office in December 2016 to July 31, 2021, and found there have been more than 13,300 shootings, but police didn’t arrest anyone in about 11,000 of those cases.
“We have to tell the truth about what’s happening here,” Foxx said. “We need to stop playing the political games and get to the work of healing in our communities. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to build the strongest cases possible, not just for arrests but for conviction, to hold those who cause harm accountable.
“… However, we will do it with the Constitution and abiding by the civil rights that are afforded to all.”
Foxx also said her office has to be careful and not cut corners when it comes to charging people, as Chicago has a long history of wrongful convictions.
Still, Foxx has come under heavy criticism for her office not charging people in various cases. The family of Chrys Carvajal, a National Guard soldier who was killed this summer, has called on her to file murder charges in the case; and Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) said Foxx’s office “has to do their job” and file charges in the murder of 7-year-old Serenity Broughton.
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