by Charlie De Mar and Asal Rezaei

CHICAGO (CBS) — An Illinois State Police trooper died after he was found with a gunshot wound inside his cruiser on the Dan Ryan Expressway on Friday afternoon.

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Gerald Mason, 36, was an 11 year veteran with the Illinois State Police.

Red and yellow police tape was stretched across the inbound lanes of the Dan Ryan (I-90/I-94), after the trooper was found in his SUV near 43rd Street around 1:45 p.m.

A passerby saw that trooper inside his car. That’s when she ran over to him and had to use the trooper’s car radio to call for help.

Witnesses told CBS 2’s Asal Rezaei they saw people frantically running over to the trooper’s vehicle. Moments later, police arrived, and witnesses saw officers place him in an unmarked police car and speed to the hospital.

 

Sources said the trooper was taken to University of Chicago Medical Center in critical condition. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed the trooper later was pronounced dead.

The trooper’s mother, Linda Mason, said her son always wanted to be an officer.

“My son always wanted to be a state trooper, ever since he was 2 years old. That was his dream. Eat, sleep, think about it all the time. Everybody loved him. Everybody loved my son. I can’t believe he’s gone,” she said.

“It is with profound heartache and unfathomable sadness that we inform you of the death of Trooper Gerald Mason. Trooper Mason was one of the many fearless Troopers assigned to ISP District Chicago.  We are asking the public to respectfully give consideration to the family of Trooper Mason and the whole ISP family while we continue to grieve and work through this tragedy,” said Director Brendan Kelly.

Circumstances of the shooting have not been confirmed, but there is no one being sought, and no public safety concern. ISP would only say that it is “an ongoing death investigation.”

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“Let’s pray for the trooper,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at an unrelated press conference Friday afternoon.

 

The scene from Chopper 2 after an Illinois State Police trooper was shot. (CBS)

A procession of police vehicles escorting an ambulance carrying the trooper’s body from the hospital to the morgue began around 4:40 p.m.

 

Meantime, the Illinois Department of Transportation said all inbound lanes of the Dan Ryan were closed at 43rd Street for the police investigation. All lanes in both directions were experiencing major delays.

The trooper’s death comes on the same day Illinois State Police were preparing to more than double patrols on Chicago area expressways during the evening and overnight hours, in response to a surge in expressway shootings over the past two years.

(Credit: Illinois State Police)

State Police said the additional patrols will begin Friday night. It is going to be a 157 percent increase – though for security reasons, state police would not provide an exact number of patrols that represents.

Before Friday, Illinois State Police had reported 185 expressway shootings in the Chicago area so far this year. Last year, there were 128, and in 2019, there were 52.

We have tracked spiking violence on our roadways for months at CBS 2, but on we have now obtained new information on how many of those behind that violence are getting away with it. As CBS 2’s Tara Molina reported, it is not often that the shooters are caught.

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In point of fact, the number of people actually identified and then arrested in expressway shootings is in the single digits. Of the 185 shootings this year, only nine people – nine shooters – have been arrested and charged.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff