Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot criticized Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx on Monday after her office declined to bring charges against suspects in a fatal West Side shootout where gunmen fired into a home late last week.
Her comments prompted a pointed response from Foxx’s office saying the mayor is “fully aware that … we are obligated not to try cases in the media.”
In the latest dispute between City Hall and the county’s top prosecutor amid high violent crime, Lightfoot said she was concerned by a decision by Foxx’s office not to bring charges related to the Friday morning exchange of gunfire, where four people exited two vehicles and shot into a home on North Mason Avenue, and people inside fired at them, according to authorities. One person was killed and the shooters outside the home fled during the incident, which was also witnessed by police officers and caught on a city street camera.
Lightfoot raised the incident at an unrelated press conference, saying Foxx’s decision not to bring charges “is of deep concern to me.”
“Having looked at this, gotten a deep understanding from the detectives that were doing the investigation, it’s really hard to understand that decision,” Lightfoot said. “It’s complicated, for sure. But 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.”
Foxx’s office released a statement in response to Lightfoot’s comments saying prosecutors have an ethical obligation “to only bring forth charges where the facts, evidence, and law support it.”
Police detectives acknowledged to prosecutors that “given the chaotic nature at the scene they were unable to determine how the events unfolded” and agreed they weren’t able to approve charges based on the evidence to date, according to Foxx’s office.
“The staggering violence that is devastating our communities is horrific, however, we must still adhere to both our ethical and legal standards in evaluating charges,” Foxx’s office said. “As a former prosecutor, she knows that.”
Foxx’s office had released an earlier statement saying there wasn’t enough evidence to prove felony charges beyond a reasonable doubt. Lightfoot and several West Side aldermen sent a letter to Foxx asking for her to reconsider the decision.
“We can’t live in a world where there is no accountability,” Lightfoot said. “When there’s no accountability, meaning individuals who wreak havoc, who fire indiscriminately or fire at a target but without any regard for the sanctity of life and the health and well-being of others, if they do not feel like the criminal justice system is going to hold them accountable, we’re going to see a level of brazenness that will send the city into chaos. We cannot let that happen.”
Lightfoot has been under pressure to curb high violent crime, which she has generally attributed to the pandemic disrupting the criminal justice system, lax prosecutors and illegal guns while pointing out that crime is up across the country. Lightfoot and Police Superintendent David Brown have at times been critical of Foxx’s office, even though Lightfoot endorsed Foxx’s re-election campaign in 2020.
The latest round of finger-pointing stems from an incident where tactical police officers were in the 1200 block of North Mason Avenue about 10:30 a.m. Friday when they spotted four people exit two vehicles and shoot at a home at the Mason address.
People also fired weapons from inside the house, shooting one person, who later died at a hospital, authorities said.
Two of the people shot were in the home, officials said.
Though a SWAT team that responded found no one barricaded inside the home, authorities said they removed a man, a woman and a child. Police also arrested two people at the home and located two cars, one burned out at Chicago and Lockwood avenues and the other crashed in Oak Park, where another suspect was taken into custody, officials said.
The statement from Foxx’s office said “CPD agreed with this decision” not to bring charges, a claim Lightfoot disputed in the letter she sent the state’s attorney. At the Police Department’s budget hearing on Monday, West Side Ald. Chris Taliaferro said he found it “very horrific” that nobody was charged in the incident, predicting the combatants “will be shooting up again this weekend.”
Brown responded that the situation was difficult because the shooters were “mutual combatants where you have multiple people shooting at each other, and no clear distinction between which person is responsible for starting it, or who’s using the self-defense as part of why they end up shooting.”
Brown said police “seek charges on everyone” when there are mutual combatants.
“My personal opinion is, let’s have the jury sort it out in front of a judge. But again, we have to work with the state’s attorney. Likely there are things we need to do more to present the case,” Brown said. “And we’re willing to do that. But the real answer is, when you have mutual combatants, people shooting at each other, we want to charge everyone.”
Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan added that it was difficult to determine from available video near the scene of the shooting who was firing weapons.
“Specifically from this case, you can’t determine who was discharging a firearm on the street from those cars, and that’s kind of the issue with this case,” he said.
Nobody who was arrested in the house agreed to cooperate with police, leaving detectives just with the video, which showed “mutual combatants,” Deenihan said.
“But even the victims who were shot refused to talk to the police, invoked their right to remain silent, and that’s where it made it difficult for the detectives to present a case saying, ‘Well, this is a person who had a gun in their hand, and they were discharging it. This person had a gun in their hand,’” Deenihan said. “Because the video does not clearly show … who was the actual discharge. And when we did arrest people, we were unable to put guns in people’s hands. So this one is a little more convoluted.”