CHICAGO (CBS) — A massive manhunt was underway, and police were questioning three people, after two officers were wounded in a shootout in the Back of the Yards neighborhood Tuesday night.
Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said investigators believe the shooters used a high-powered weapon when they opened fire on two Deering District tactical officers near 43rd and Ashland around 9:15 p.m., as the officers were sitting in a surveillance van.
The windshield and driver’s side of the officer’s black van were riddled with dozens of bullet holes.
Police said the officers were conducting a follow-up investigation to an earlier incident when one or two vehicles pulled up, and the people inside began shooting at them “Indiscriminately.” The officers managed to return fire, but it’s unclear if anyone else was hit.
Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said the attack is just another example of how dangerous officers’ jobs are.
“I think we take it for granted that when police officers come to work every day, they put their lives on the line every single day they get in that car to protect the citizens of this city,” he said.
One officer was shot in the back, and the other was shot in the arm and hip. The officers taken to Stroger Hospital for treatment. Both were released from the hospital on Wednesday, and Guglielmi said Johnson has ordered “heightened security” for the two officers.
As family members gathered outside the emergency room at Stroger Hospital overnight, Johnson, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th), and Chicago Fraternal Order of Police president Kevin Graham all came by to check on the officers.
“This latest unprovoked attack on police officers doing nothing more than carrying out their sworn duties highlights yet again the dangers police officers in Chicago and all across the country are faced with every day. I hope politicians and the media realize how dangerous police work truly is and what courage officers demonstrate each and every day, as this shooting illuminates,” Graham said in a statement Wednesday morning. “We ask citizens of good will everywhere to pray for their speedy recovery.”
Lopez praised the Chicago police for putting their own safety at risk to protect the city.
“I’m so thankful that the brave men and women of the 9th District – these two officers in particular – were willing to put their lives on the line to defend my communities, our communities,” Lopez said. “We should not be here at 11 o’clock at night thanking the Lord above that these officers survived.”
Ald. Patrick Thompson (11th) – whose ward also is served by Deering District officers – said he believes repeat gun offenders likely were responsible. That’s why he called on state lawmakers to do more about gun crimes.
“This act of senseless gun violence again shows that we need to do something in Springfield. We need to pass sensible gun legislation to stop this insanity. It happened here now to two police officers. It happens on our streets way too often, and so I’m asking that we do something down in Springfield to curb this gun violence; to help the police officers, to help them do their jobs,” he said.
Lopez also expressed his outrage at Congress for repealing the assault weapons ban.
“We had laws that kept weapons of war out of civilian hands, and yet everyone stands by and does nothing while more and more blood is shed on our streets,” he said.
Police have been questioning three people of interest in the shooting since late Tuesday night, but a massive manhunt was still underway Wednesday morning in the Back of the Yards and neighboring Canaryville neighborhoods.
“Make no mistake about it, we’re going to catch them. We are going to get these individuals responsible,” Johnson said. “If they will fire at police officers like that, then they have no thought process in terms of firing at other citizens of this great city, so we are going to get them.”
A short time after the shooting, police recovered a silver minivan that might have been used in the shooting about a mile-and-a-half away, near 37th and Racine. Investigators also were seen processing a silver Chevy Trailblazer found in the 1700 block of North Harding Avenue overnight, although police have not confirmed either vehicle was involved in the shooting.
Police said two guns have been recovered so far.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives was assisting police with the investigation.