Prayer held for off-duty Chicago police officer killed in 'tragic' shooting near Avalon Park home

CPD officer shot, killed on Blackstone Avenue ID'd as 24-year-old Areanah Preston

ByEvelyn Holmes, Tre Ward, and Christian Piekos WLS logo
Wednesday, May 17, 2023
Prayer held for off-duty CPD cop shot to death near South Side home
An off-duty Chicago police officer killed in an Avalon Park shooting on Blackstone Avenue has been ID'd as Areanah Preston, officials said.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- An off-duty Chicago police officer was shot and killed on the city's South Side early Saturday morning, according to CPD.

The officer was shot at 8157 S. Blackstone Ave. just before 1:45 a.m., just after arriving home from work, according to Chicago police officials. The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office identified her as 24-year-old Aréanah Preston.

Video from a neighbor's doorbell camera shows first responders rushing to the scene. According to sources, she had been shot multiple times.

A fellow officer brought Preston to University of Chicago Medical Center, where she died, interim Chicago Police Supt, Eric Carter said in a news conference outside the hospital later Saturday morning.

An off-duty Chicago police officer was shot and killed in the city's South Side Avalon Park neighborhood early Saturday morning, according to CPD.

It's still unclear what led to the shooting or if the officer's service weapon was fired or recovered.

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Grief-stricken relatives gathered on the block where Preston was gunned down just steps from the Avalon Park home she shared with her family.

"It's kind of surprising that this occurred in this neighborhood," said Matthew Brim, who lives in the neighborhood.

Fellow officers gathered at the hospital as a show of support for a procession to the medical examiner's office earlier Saturday. Both Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Carter asked for prayers and support for the Chicago Police Department in the wake of the shooting.

Lightfoot said she spoke with the family of the officer killed Saturday.

"When I got the call this morning, I wasn't just a mayor. I was a mom, thinking about what the parents of this young officer would be feeling today. And, as I've seen way too many times, they're shattered, as you would expect," Lightfoot said.

Carter said his daughter attended high school with the young officer, and that his wife coached their cheerleading team, adding that no resource will be spared to find whoever is responsible for the officer's death.

In a statement, Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson called the shooting a "profound tragedy," adding, in part, "my heart breaks for the family of the young officer who was murdered early this morning. I'm outraged and devastated by this horrific violence against a public servant."

On Saturday afternoon, those who knew the officer said she was a go-getter.

"I know the young lady, because I know she graduated. I remember them having the stuff on the outside when she graduated," said Divinia Franklin, who lives in the area. "It's just crazy."

Later, on Saturday evening, Chicago police officers, along with faith and community leaders, held a prayer circle for Preston.

"You can only pray that something like this doesn't happen, but unfortunately, sometimes it comes right to your front steps," said Pastor Donovan Price.

Her fellow officers gathered to honor a life, ripped away, that had so much more to offer.

"Every time we lose a servant, a hero, it's pretty tragic," said Sgt. Timothy Crawford. "It hurts. I knew this young woman. You see these young people come and willing to serve."

Preston was set to graduate with her master's degree from Loyola University next weekend. The university said it's "shocked and saddened by her tragic passing."

As an undergrad student, Preston also traveled abroad with Illinois State University. Her former ISU professors, said, in a statement, "Areanah wanted to be the officer who would speak for the most vulnerable in society."

Police haven't given a motive behind the shooting. There is no one in custody, and Area Two Detectives are investigating.

The slain officer is the second to die in the department recently.

Prosecutors said Steven Montano, 18, shot and killed 32-year-old Chicago Police Officer Andres Vazquez Lasso after police responded to a domestic disturbance in Gage Park on March 1.

The Chicago Fire Department also lost two firefighters in two days last month.

Loyola University of Chicago full statement:

"Loyola University Chicago confirms that Police Officer Areanah Preston was scheduled to graduate on May 13 with a Masters of Jurisprudence from the School of Law. Our University community is shocked and saddened by her tragic passing. She will be remembered by her faculty and classmates for her kindness, intellect, and commitment to service. We wish to express our deepest condolences to the Preston family and to all those whose lives she touched."

Illinois State University professors' full statement:

"Areanah stood out the moment we met her. She was an intelligent, thoughtful, and committed young woman. She was an old soul in that she already understood the challenges of minoritized populations, about the lack of justice in these communities and she was going to be the force of change. She already knew that she was going to dedicate her career, her life to the improvement of relationships between police organizations and minoritized populations. Areanah wanted to be the officer who would speak for the most vulnerable in society. She wanted to be the one who would care for the most vulnerable. She cared and she wanted better for everyone."

Johnson's full statement:

"This is a profound tragedy, and my heart breaks for the family of the young officer who was murdered early this morning on her way home from work. I'm outraged and devastated by this horrific violence against a public servant, and I will do everything I can to support her family and the Chicago Police Department through this traumatic time. I pray that her killer is apprehended quickly so that justice may be served.

"That a public servant was killed in the middle of the night underlines the fierce urgency of the public safety crisis in our city. My top priority is building a better, stronger, safer Chicago where all our residents can live and work free from the threat of violence."

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