A “hardworking” and “loving” Illinois State Police trooper died after a shooting Friday afternoon on the inbound Dan Ryan Expressway on the city’s South Side,state police said.
He was identified as District Chicago Trooper Gerald Mason, 36, who had been with state police for 11 years, said Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly during a Friday night news conference at McCormick Place.
“He was a loving person who treated people with respect and kindness,” Kelly said.
“This is a sad moment. We are hurting. Mason’s family is hurting badly today also,” Kelly said. “We ask for your thoughts and love for his family and the Illinois State Police family.
“But we ask for more than just your thoughts and prayers. His friends and family are in real pain for the death of their friend.”
Mason, who was on duty, was found in his police vehicle at 1:38 p.m., in the inbound lanes of the Ryan at 43rd Street. A Chicago police officer took Mason, who’d suffered one gunshot wound, to the University of Chicago Medical Center.
His condition was described as critical, but it was then downgraded to “grave,” said Chicago Fire Department spokesperson Larry Langford.
Mason was pronounced dead at 2:16 p.m. at the hospital, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
Kelly said there was no known threat to the public at the shooting scene.
An earlier emailed statement from state police described the situation as an “officer involved shooting,” but did not elaborate.
“Many people called Mason the ‘Hulk,’” said Kelly during the news conference. “He was a solid, strong man.”
“Please remember, the amazing men and women who we all ask to do so much again and again and again, they seem like superheroes on many days. But they are not immortal. They are not indestructible,” Kelly said.
“They are human beings with hearts, minds and souls as fragile as the next person. They have a breaking point.”
Kelly ended the news conference by calling for a moment of silence “for all those who bear the burden of service.”
As of 3 p.m. a handful of troopers and Chicago police officers could be seen standing outside the hospital’s emergency room, as police and fire vehicles blocked the street in front.
The inbound lanes of the Dan Ryan Expressway were still closed at 3:30 p.m. Friday as investigators combed the scene of the shooting.
Investigators went in and out of a state police SUV that hugged the westbound barrier of the local inbound lanes.
One trooper sat on the barrier and entered the driver’s window of the SUV, his legs dangling in the air as he looked inside. A Honda SUV with civilian plates was parked in front of the police SUV.
Pedestrians pulled over along Wentworth Avenue and walked to the fence of the expressway to see what was happening. Others drove along, stopped and asked what was going on.
Just Thursday, state police released a statement about gun violence, saying that on Friday they were going to be beefing up patrols “during peak criminal activity times,” in the evening and overnight hours.
The Illinois State Police (Division of Patrol for the District Chicago area would increase preventive patrol presence by 157% during peak criminal activity times on Chicago-area expressways during District Chicago’s Safe Drive Detail, according to the statement.
The state police will reallocate officers from around the state to District Chicago to prevent roadway violence and provide maximum staffing for high-violence shifts throughout each month, the statement said.
“For more than 30 years, patrol of Chicago area expressways has been a unique duty of this agency and in that time, we have not previously confronted the concentrated levels of gun violence we have faced in 2020 and 2021,” Kelly said in the statement. “We are a statewide agency with statewide missions and responsibilities, but we must dedicate the greatest resources to the greatest need, and right now the greatest need is here, on Chicago’s expressways.”
District Chicago has a total of 185 reported expressway shootings in 2021, compared with 83 at this time last year, the statement said. There were 128 reported shootings total in 2020.
And in 2020 there had been more than twice the number of shootings than the 52 expressway shootings in 2019. There were 43 in 2018, according to the state police.
The Tamara Clayton Expressway Act, which went into effect in January 2020, allocated $12.5 million for the Illinois State Police to place high-resolution cameras along area roadways to deter and detect shootings. Installation of the high-speed, license plate-reading cameras began more than a month ago.
As recently as Tuesday, two 21-year-old men were fatally shot on the outbound Stevenson Expressway, where it splits with Interstate Highway 94, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. The men, whose identities were not released, were shot about 11:30 p.m. and autopsies determined they died of multiple gunshot wounds, the medical examiner’s office said.