Cops wounded, offender dead in River North shooting

February 24, 2011 4:30:32 AM PST
Two Chicago police officers were injured in a shooting with an ''aggressive panhandler'' at the intersection of Chicago Avenue and Wells Street in River North on the city's Near North Side.

One officer was shot and the other was hit by flying glass in the incident. An offender is dead, police said.

Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis said both officers are going to be OK. A 44-year-old officer with 16 years on the force was shot and his partner, who is 60 years old and has 37 years on the job, suffered a minor hand injury. Both are at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

"The offender became combative with the 18th district officers and ultimately retrieved a weapon and fired shots at the officers. The officers immediately returned fire, fatally wounding the offender," Weis said.

Phil Lee said he saw it all play out. He said, "The cop ran up and shot point-blank two shots in the rear window and opened up the front door to check to see what was going on and then came back around and pulled the guy out of the car and the guy was laying on the ground. And then like two minutes there was like 50 cop cars here."

According to witnesses, while in the back seat of the unmarked squad, the suspect somehow managed to pull out a gun and fire at the officers in the front seat, hitting one of them in the back. The officer and his partner then apparently bailed out of the car, leaving it to roll into a light pole.

"All of a sudden, I look and the back windshield is being blown out and rounds of gun shots going off, I freaked out," said witness Joelle Minassian.

Students at the nearby Moody Bible Institute heard the shots and ran to the windows.

"One man got out of the car and it was a police officer and he was like complaining about something on his back where he had been shot. So there was one officer pulled up his shirt and he was looking at it. Then a few minutes later they pulled the body out of the back of the car," said Melissa Zaldivar, witness.

A police spokesperson confirms the suspect produced his own gun, not one of the officer's weapons.

"Not every day you look out your window and see somebody shooting somebody. That was kind of surreal," said Lee.

Superintendent Weis did not say where the offender got his gun. The squad car with its back windshield shot out remained at the scene two hours later. Chicago Avenue was closed from LaSalle to Franklin while officials investigated.

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