By John Carpenter, David Grimm and Sophia Kohan
Several hundred Rogers Park residents filled the Loyola Park gymnasium Wednesday evening, as police asked for help tracking down a man they fear could be “walking around shooting people without any obvious motive.”
The standing-room-only crowd heard some details of the investigation into two recent shootings, both single shot-to-the-head murders as the victims walked alone.
Chicago Police First Deputy Superintendent Anthony Riccio also pledged a “huge complement of police officers,” including 40 detectives, and said they would stay on the case until the killer is found.
Many neighborhood residents at the meeting said they’ve already changed their routines.
“I used to walk my dog, said Holly Seslar. “Now we just let him out in the yard.”
Others said they have started walking dogs in groups.
“This has gotten everybody very upset, very nervous,” said Dave Roeder, a West Rogers Park resident who attended the meeting with his wife. “It appears to be random.”
Roeder said he was encouraged by the turnout at the meeting.
“I’m glad for the level of community involvement.”
Ald. Joe Moore, who began the meeting with remarks before the police presentation, also praised the community.
“There is a lot of individual fear and concern – fear and concern that I share,” he said. “But our neighborhood is resilient.”
Douglass Watts, 73, was shot and killed September 30, at approximately 10 a.m., in the 1400 block of West Sherwin Avenue. Monday, at approximately 10:20 p.m., Eliyahu Moscowitz, 24, was shot and killed on the bike path of Loyola Park, located on the 1100 block of West Lunt Avenue. Both men were walking alone when the crimes occurred, police said.
Riccio said the fact that neither murder fit any of the usual profiles for homicides – neither appeared to be gang or narcotics related, he said – raised suspicions. And when detectives noted that shell casings found at both scenes were similar, police ordered expedited ballistics test. The test confirmed that the same gun was used in both murders, Riccio said.
Within hours of the completion of the ballistics test, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson held a press conference in the 24th District headquarters. And Riccio said the 40 detectives assigned to the case represent a “huge, huge deployment.”
Police have released both a photo and video of the person they believe is the killer. He can be seen walking, and in one case running, while wearing dark clothes and a dark mask.
Riccio said the fact that both killings were not far from each other, and that the killer was caught on video running from one of them, suggest that he lives in the neighborhood.
“Someone in this room probably knows who this person is,” Riccio said, pointing out that the killer appears to have an unusual gait, with his toes pointing out.
Chicago police, meanwhile, are on high alert as the wait for the verdict in the trial of Jason Van Dyke, the police officer charged with murder in the shooting death of Laquan MacDonald. Officials are concerned about protests after the verdict, especially if Van Dyke is acquitted. But Riccio said the officers working this case will not be diverted.
At a brief press conference outside the meeting, a television reporter asked Riccio if the killings might be described as some sort of “thrill kill or real-life game of assassin.”
“I don’t want to go with either one of those characterizations,” he said.
Most at the meeting appeared supportive of police efforts. Some, however, suggested that flyers identifying the shooter as a “black male” when his face in photos is obscured by a mask, amount to racial profiling.
Sgt. Shawn Sisk, addressed these charges in the meeting, holding up the photo police are distributing.
“This is who we are looking for,” he said. “Our number one goal is to catch this person, and to give you back that sense of safety that this person has taken away from you.”
Sisk said he recognized that “some people don’t like the police,” but he urged people to put aside the political feelings.
Ralph Edwards, a Ceasefire program manager, said he thinks police are racial profiling even if they say they aren’t, and that it makes it harder for men of color like himself. He said the killer has left the neighborhood gripped with fear.
“He has so much power that it’s scary,” Edwards said.