Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx met Thursday to discuss their dispute over a lack of charges in a high-profile West Side shootout.
Their ongoing conflict over Foxx’s charging decision in the controversial case had escalated after Lightfoot sent an earlier email through her campaign account questioning Foxx’s decision and pledging to “continue to push all elements of the criminal justice system to do their part to keep our residents safe and hold those committing gang and gun violence to account.”
Before the meeting between Foxx and Lightfoot was over, the state’s attorney’s office released a statement saying they looked forward to discussing issues in the Police Department as well as Chicago’s spiking violence. Foxx’s office has been upset with a series of leaks emanating from the Police Department.
In the statement, Foxx’s office also ripped Lightfoot for the political email, writing, “Our goal is to focus on the issues and not continue to try cases in the media and use the devastating violence in communities for political gain such as campaign emails.”
Foxx released another statement Friday morning recapping the meeting, which also included police Superintendent David Brown and Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan.
“As from the very beginning, CPD continued to agree that there is insufficient evidence for charges at this time and informed the mayor as such,” Foxx’s office said. “However, the CCSAO remains committed to working with CPD as they continue their investigation.”
Lightfoot released a joint statement with Brown saying, “We are all committed to doing whatever we can to ensure that our communities are safe and that we reduce violence in our city. We had a very productive meeting and shared perspectives toward that common goal. We will continue to strengthen our collaboration on behalf of the residents of Chicago.”
The meeting followed a series of heated news conferences between City Hall and the county’s top prosecutor, which started Monday after Lightfoot said she was concerned about a decision by Foxx’s office not to bring charges related to a Friday morning exchange of gunfire in which four people exited two vehicles and shot into a home on North Mason Avenue, and people inside fired at them, according to authorities.
One person was killed and the shooters outside the home fled during the incident, which was also witnessed by police officers and caught on a city street camera. But prosecutors declined to press murder charges, saying there wasn’t enough clear evidence to support a case due to grainy video and uncooperative witnesses.
Lightfoot ripped Foxx’s office on Monday over the decision, saying there was enough evidence to bring a case and that the decision not to charge the men would lead to “chaos.”
In response, Foxx called a rare news conference to rebut Lightfoot. At one point, Foxx said Lightfoot’s comments were a stunt akin to former Mayor Jane Byrne’s 1981 decision to move into the Cabrini-Green housing project.
“I was quite honestly mortified by what happened yesterday, particularly because the mayor, as a former prosecutor, knows that what she did yesterday was inappropriate,” Foxx said.
Lightfoot’s comments stating there is enough evidence to file charges against suspects in the shooting case where gunmen fired into a home Friday morning “simply weren’t true,” Foxx said. She said the job of the state’s attorney office is to get a conviction, which means the evidence in any case has to be “held in the highest integrity.”
Adding to the tension is a dispute over the Police Department’s stance on the case. Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan earlier this week said it was difficult to determine from available video near the scene of the shooting who was firing weapons.
“Specifically from this case, you can’t determine who was discharging a firearm on the street from those cars, and that’s kind of the issue with this case,” he said.
Nobody who was arrested in the house agreed to cooperate with police, leaving detectives just with the video, which showed “mutual combatants,” Deenihan said.
“But even the victims who were shot refused to talk to the police, invoked their right to remain silent, and that’s where it made it difficult for the detectives to present a case saying, ‘Well, this is a person who had a gun in their hand, and they were discharging it. This person had a gun in their hand,’” Deenihan said. “Because the video does not clearly show … who was the actual discharge. And when we did arrest people, we were unable to put guns in people’s hands. So this one is a little more convoluted.”
Lightfoot, however, publicly dismissed Deenihan’s comments.
“The question I might have for him when I see him shortly, candidly, is (if this happened) in Beverly, Mount Greenwood (or) anywhere in the North Side, would there really be no clarity?” she asked.
Lightfoot has been under pressure to curb a high violent crime rate, which she has generally attributed to the pandemic disrupting the criminal justice system, lax prosecutors and illegal guns while pointing out that crime is up across the country. Lightfoot and police Superintendent David Brown have at times been critical of Foxx’s office, even though Lightfoot endorsed Foxx’s reelection campaign in 2020.
City statistics show the number of shooting victims is up year-to-date through Sunday from 3,128 in 2020 to 3,475 in 2021. Homicides are up, from 597 in 2020 to 624.
Progressive critics contend the city spends too much on policing, though some argue that CPD’s leadership strategies are failing. Lightfoot has backed Brown against criticism.
Even as she prepared to meet with Foxx, Lightfoot continued her criticism in the email she sent out through her political account.
“Everybody’s got to be working together, but we can’t send a message that it’s OK and you get a pass that you shoot up a residence in broad daylight captured on film and no consequences will happen,” Lightfoot wrote in the email. “That can’t be the world we live in.
“We must create real safety in our neighborhoods,” Lightfoot said. “It requires everyone that is part of the public safety ecosystem to pull our weight and work together.”
Chicago Tribune’s Jeremy Gorner contributed.