Chicago Police Department (CPD) officers stationed in Rogers Park (24th district) held an informational meeting Wednesday night to update residents about two recent shootings in the area shortly after photo and video footage of the suspect was released by CPD.
Earlier this week, two men were shot and killed in the neighborhood. 73-year-old Douglass Watts was killed Sunday while walking his dog about 1.5 miles away from campus. The following day, 24-year-old Eliyahu Moscowitz was shot dead near Loyola Park, just over a mile from campus.
Community members have been on high alert since CPD said they believe the same shooter killed both Watts and Moscowitz, citing the same gun was used for both shootings. The suspect still hasn’t been found, according to Anthony Riccio, first deputy superintendent of CPD.
About 500 community members showed up to the meeting, according to 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore, who said the numbers show the strength of the Rogers Park community.
“I think it shows that this is a community that cares, that is resilient and that doesn’t let fear paralyze them,” Moore said.
Riccio began the meeting stating the department has 40 detectives working on finding the killer, along with extra police “saturating” the area. CPD has also enlisted the help of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
Officers believe the individual responsible for the attacks lives in the area, according to Riccio.
Loyola Campus Safety officer Rene Benavidez said he was asked to sit on the panel to answer any Loyola-related questions from the audience, but none were asked.
The number of students calling Campus Safety for rides around campus has increased following the attacks, according to Benavidez. Benavidez encouraged students to continue to use services like 8-RIDE — a shuttle service for students within a mile radius of campus— and to call Campus Safety if they are in an uncomfortable situation.
Benavidez wouldn’t take specific questions from The Phoenix.
Moore said Loyola students should “not be fearful, but be mindful.”
Riccio, North Area Commander of Detectives Bob Cesario and 24th District Commander Roberto Nieves urged attendees to be on high alert and contact the police with any tips. Officers showed video surveillance of the suspect and the way he walked, which they characterized as “duck-feet.”
The panel of officers and detectives then opened the meeting for community members to ask questions.
One attendee, Naudia Chichester, asked what residents can do to stay safe.
Chichester said her 15-year-old daughter was walking their dog when Watts was killed. She “came in screaming” after seeing the cops surrounding the scene.
Should community members come in contact with the suspect, Cesario advised them to cross the street.
Other attendees asked questions about possible gang affiliation or “initiation,” but officers repeated the motive for the attacks is unclear.
Megan Amend, a Loyola sophomore and resident assistant at Simpson Hall, said she attended the meeting because she was concerned about the safety of herself and her residents, and wanted to be able to answer their questions.
Amend said she no longer feels comfortable walking alone at night, but believes CPD is working hard to keep the community safe, Loyola students included.
“I think they’re doing their best given the situation,” the 20-year-old said. “I think that their communication with Loyola, in particular, has increased, given the students’ concern.”
Amend said she believes it is important for Loyola students to receive information on crimes that occur in Rogers Park.
“I do think that it would be helpful for Loyola students if we were alerted about crimes in the surrounding area,” the special education major said.
Sister Benita Coffey, a Loyola alumna, said she’s worked and lived in Rogers Park for 67 years. She said these incidents have made her scared in Rogers Park for the first time in her life, making her want to attend the meeting to understand what is happening.
“The first thing I need to do is figure out why I am scared to go to my car now, which I have never been scared to do before,” Coffey said. “And that’s sad.”
Samuel Kunkel, a four year resident of Rogers Park, said the recent murders have led him to turn to more local news channels. After hearing from local officers, Kunkel added he appreciates the way the cops are handling the situation.
“It seems like [the cops] are very level-headed about how this whole thing is,” Kunkel said.
Kunkel said safety has always been important to him as a resident of Rogers Park.
“Rogers Park has always been, for me, that neighborhood where it’s okay to be outside at night, but you always have to be paying attention,” Kunkel said.
Amber Pierce, a resident of Rogers Park for more than five years, said she’s stopped running outside alone since the second murder Monday night. Pierce said she trusts what the cops are doing to handle the situation, and believes they shared as much information during the meeting as they could.
“I think they’ve been as forthcoming as they can be,” Pierce said. “There’s an investigation going on, and the public has to realize that it’s for their own good that they’re not getting all the information.”
Any information about the crimes should be reported to CPD at (312) 744-8263 or 911.