CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago police and federal authorities are asking for help identifying 18 people suspected of dozens of arson incidents across Chicago in late May and early June, as looting spread across Chicago in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“Unfortunately, certain individuals acting on the peripheral of peaceful protests appeared to have started fires that caused extensive damage to public and private properties that put first responders and people in our communities at risk,” U.S. Attorney Jon Lausch said Tuesday afternoon.
Chicago Police, FBI, and ATF investigators have scoured hours of surveillance video from the looting, and have released images and video of 18 people believed to be responsible for 53 acts of arson between May 30 and June 3.
Chicago law enforcement officials seeking 18 persons of interest in recent arsons throughout Chicago. @ATF_Chicago @NDILnews @Chicago_Police @CFDMedia @FBIChicago working in partnership to identify people in these videos: https://t.co/QJHLFYVDgL More at https://t.co/C0hwzfGiVG pic.twitter.com/9Lj5lyhEFq
— ATF Chicago (@ATF_Chicago) June 30, 2020
“The victims of these arsons were business owners and community members, those who have worked hard to provide resources for all of our neighborhoods here in the city. What began as a peaceful act of advocacy on behalf of the community turned into an unfortunate and chaotic weekend,” said ATF Chicago Special Agent in Charge Kristen deTineo.
In the days after Floyd was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis, people took to the streets across the country, including Chicago, to protest police brutality and systemic racism. Starting on the night of Saturday, May 30 in Chicago, looters began breaking into stores across the city, sometimes setting fires as they ransacked businesses. Others burned parked cars and police vehicles.
“The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has forever changed our country and the institution of policing. The videos of Floyd’s final moments are chilling to watch. Nationwide, people reacted by calling out loudly for change,” Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said. “Others saw this opportunity to steal and vandalize businesses and property. In several cases, buildings and vehicles were systematically burned.”
Brown noted that the incidents of looting and arson not only caused damage to the businesses that were targeted, but hurt neighboring businesses as well, making it more likely passersby will be hesitant to stop and shop in areas with burned-out buildings.
“Business owners throughout Chicago saw their hopes and dreams go up in flames with these fires. Communities have also suffered. Not all of these businesses will reopen. Many will remain blighted for years to come,” Brown said.
Authorities have released 10 separate videos and dozens of images of the people they suspect are responsible for setting fires during the looting. Anyone who recognizes any of the people in the photos and videos should call Chicago police or the ATF. Tips can be submitted anonymously to email@example.com, cpdtip.com, or CPD’s anonymous hotline at 312-745-6233.
Chicago Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Commissioner Rosa Escareno said the businesses damaged by looting and arson already were suffering due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Even before the civil unrest incidents, our businesses had been shuttered for months, and they were already facing a crisis, a crisis of closure, a crisis of unemployment, a crisis of seeing their life’s investment really just take a toll,” she said.
Escareno said some businesses that were damaged by looters have remained boarded up even after reopening, due to ongoing fears of looting.
As CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reported Tuesday, one such business that remains boarded up is the Chicago Sports apparel store at 332 N. Michigan Ave. On the night of Saturday, May 30, as unrest raged downtown, our cameras captured flames tearing through the store.
On Tuesday, June 30, the building remained scorched and boarded up. The website for the store said the following:
“On the evening of 5/30 our flagship store on Michigan Avenue was looted and subsequently burned down. We are devastated and wondering where we go from here. This loss is heavy on its own but after two months of quarantine we are trying to be positive. We thank you for the overwhelming support shown to us.”
It is the same story at 79th Street and Damen Avenue, where the Sadoni Beauty Supply store went up in smoke on Sunday, May 31.
A month later, it was still under repair.
Lausch said, while some of the incidents appeared to be coordinated attacks on businesses, others seemed to be random crimes of opportunity.
“In both instances, it’s wrong,” Lausch said. “We’re going to hold people accountable in both cases.”
Members of the ATF’s National Response Team were here for two weeks last month. It is the same team that investigated similar arsons in Minneapolis.
The ATF also has special experts, forensic chemists, and specifically trained canines. It’s the same group that investigated after large-scale bombings-scale bombings like the one in Oklahoma City in 1995, or the crash site on Sept. 11, 2001.
Authorities also urged business owners who might have surveillance video of looting or arson on their property should provide that video to Chicago police.