A gunman carjacked an undercover police officer Thursday afternoon on the Near North Side embarking on nearly two-mile crime spree that left two people shot in the city’s Gold Coast neighborhood.
The string of violence began around 5:30 p.m. in the 600 block of West Chicago Avenue, where a man hijacked an on-duty undercover officer’s vehicle, according to Deputy Police Chief Kevin Ryan. The officer was unharmed.
The man drove off and was spotted, again, near Oak and Rush streets. There, he shot the driver of a black Nissan Altima in the arm after he attempted to steal his car, according to police and witnesses.
From inside a bank at the corner, a woman, who asked to remain anonymous her safety, said she was making a deposit when she heard a gunshot, which she thought was traffic noise at the time.
As she about to make her way through the revolving doors, she saw a young man with gun in his hand running by, shifting his focus to a Jeep.
Though the gunman was a slighter build than the Jeep driver, he managed to swiftly throw him to the ground before speeding away.
Fearing for her safety, but also worried about her husband who was waiting in the car outside, employees from the bank escorted her to her vehicle.
“At first, I was shaking so much I could barely stand,” the woman said. “My husband was in disbelief.”
“I’ve lived here for 31 years and I’ve never seen a gun in my life,” she continued. “But you know it when you see it.”
Police caught up with the suspect when they spotted the Jeep in the 1400 block of Inner Lake Shore Drive. The robber had sprinted inside the lobby of condominium building in that block after trying to carjack another person, leaving a second victim grazed by a bullet, Ryan said.
The two people shot were men, 37 and 84, according to a law enforcement source.
The robber, who was arrested within “minutes,’’ has “multiple’’ previous arrests, Ryan said. He was found with a semi-automatic pistol. No charges have been filed yet.
Both gunshot victims were taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Ryan said their conditions were not life-threatening.
After two successful carjackings and at least two other attempts, the assailant left several crime scenes sprinkled throughout the Near North Side in rush hour traffic.
At Larabee Street and Chicago Avenue, a silver Jaguar sat in the right lane of traffic facing east, with minor fender damage, apparently from colliding with another vehicle beside it.
On State Street between Bellevue Place and Oak Street, police investigated an abandoned Ford SUV. Around the corner, dozens of people gathered around the intersection of Rush and Oak streets, some letting out audible gasps when they saw the Altima with a bullet hole through its driver side window.
“Here?” one woman said. “Are you serious?
“And this is supposed to be the good side of town,” a man scoffed before walking away.
Steve Brown, an attorney who lives a block away, was walking home from getting groceries when he saw paramedics helping the man with a gunshot wound to the arm out of the driver’s seat of the Nissan. He was placed on a stretcher and loaded into an ambulance, Brown said.
Brown, like others in the city, has heard of shootings taking place on the city’s South and West side, but he’s never seen this in his 30 years of living in the area.
“It’s troubling,” Brown said. “This is right in the middle of the most affluent part of Chicago. But it’s crazy because they know they are going to get caught.’’
At Schiller Street and Lake Shore Drive, about 300 yards from where the stolen Jeep sat, Deputy Chief Ryan tried to reassure the public that this an anomaly.
“It is safe down here,’’ Ryan stressed. “If you come down here to do this, you’re going to get caught.’’
Though Ryan received applause from a crowd of people watching the news conference from the sidewalk, there was no doubt some of those who witnessed the brazen gunman, including the woman who had seen the robbery, were left thinking otherwise.
“You know they say these things happen everywhere, so I guess nowhere is really safe,” she said.