Chicago violence: Prosecutors reject charges in deadly gang-related Austin shooting

Mayor Lightfoot calls on Cook County State's Attorney to file charges; Kim Foxx pushes back

Craig Wall Image
Tuesday, October 5, 2021
Murder, battery charges rejected in deadly Austin shooting
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Prosecutors rejected charges against suspects in a deadly gang-related Chicago shooting in Austin.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- There is an outcry from the mayor and some Chicago aldermen after men linked by police to a deadly gang shootout in Austin last week were released from custody. Prosecutors declined to charge each of them with a pair of felonies, including first-degree murder.

The mid-morning gunfight, which left one shooter dead and two of the suspects wounded, stemmed from an internal dispute between two gang factions, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

New video from city pod cameras shows what police say is two people pulling up and opening fire at an Austin home. They ducked for cover as the people inside fired back. One person was killed and two others were hurt in the shootout. Three people were arrested.

Police sought to charge all suspects with murder and aggravated battery. By Sunday morning, a Chicago police spokeswoman acknowledged the suspects had "been released without charges."

The Cook County state's attorney's office explained that prosecutors had "determined that the evidence was insufficient to meet our burden of proof to approve felony charges," a state's attorney's office spokeswoman said, adding that police officials agreed with the decision.

RELATED: Chicago shooting: SWAT team called after 1 killed, 2 wounded in shootout at Austin home

But a police report framed the state's attorney's office's decision to decline charges in a different light: "Mutual combatants was cited as the reason for the rejection." Mutual combat is a legal term used to define a fight or struggle that two parties willingly engage in.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and some West Side aldermen called on Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx to reverse her decision on the case.

"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 and we cannot let that happen," the mayor said Monday.

Foxx said there was not enough evidence to support felony charges, and police said the people arrested refused to tell them anything. But Lightfoot, herself a former prosecutor, believes there's evidence to make a case.

"I think that there's evidence there. We've got videotape, we have a marked squad of uniformed officers who were on the scene observing it," she said. "At a bare minimum, the individuals who initiated the firefight must be prosecuted."

"I think it goes beyond frustration, I'm furious about it," said 29th Ward Alderman Chris Taliaferro, who oversees the ward where the shooting took place.

The Cook County State's Attorney's Office released a statement in response to the mayor's calls, saying: As a former federal prosecutor, the Mayor knows of the ethical obligation of the prosecutor to only bring forth charges where the facts, evidence, and law support it. She is also fully aware that as a prosecutor we are obligated not to try cases in the media. It is unclear why she has chosen to make such statements, especially absent the full information that was presented to our office by CPD. The detectives reached out to our office on Friday and acknowledged at the outset that given the chaotic nature at the scene they were unable to determine how the events unfolded. We reviewed the evidence that was presented to us in consultation with the detectives and they agreed we were unable to approve charges based on the evidence presented. However, as always, as additional evidence is gathered we stand ready to bring charges when appropriate. Additionally, the facts the mayor presented today simply are not in line with what was presented to us by CPD, and not born out by the evidence we received. 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. As a former prosecutor, she knows that.

Last week, Cook County prosecutors came under fire after making a similar argument after a teenager was stabbed to death during a fight in suburban Schaumburg. The family of the victim, 18-year-old Manuel Porties Jr., later told WGN that prosecutors specifically said they weren't charging the 17-year-old suspect with murder because the fatal fight amounted to mutual combat.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report