41st Ward alderman responds to Caldwell Woods incident that has gained worldwide attention
by CYRYL JAKUBOWSKI
Alderman Anthony Napolitano (41st) said that an assault incident on June 14 at Caldwell Woods in his ward that has gained international attention after a video went viral recently was not representative of Northwest Side residents.
Officers were dispatched to Picnic Grove 1 at Caldwell Woods near Nagle and Devon avenues at about 1:45 p.m. Thursday, June 14, to a battery in progress, according to a police report from the Forest Preserve District of Cook County Police Department.
A woman reported that a man made rude comments and "got in her face while pointing a finger at her," according to police. From the video that has been seen worldwide, the allegedly intoxicated man harangues the woman and tells her to take off a Puerto Rican shirt that she was wearing as she was setting up to celebrate her birthday at the forest preserve. The woman reported that she "felt scared and threatened," according to the report.
"You’re not going to change us," the man said in the video. "The world is not going to change the United States of America. You should not be wearing that in the United States of America."
The video shows that during the incident a county officer is seen standing away from the woman in the background and not moving to intervene in the reported assault. That officer has since resigned.
"As we announced last night, Officer Patrick Connor no longer serves in the police department of the Forest Preserves of Cook County. He resigned late in the day yesterday (on July 11), while our investigation was underway. But, to be clear, Connor’s file will reflect that this officer did not resign in good standing, with a note indicating he left the district with ‘discipline pending,’" Forest Preserves District general superintendent Arnold Randall said at a news conference on July 12. "I am sincerely sorry this happened. I’ve seen the video, and I am outraged that this would happen anywhere, but especially sad it happened in our Forest Preserves."
The man who shouted apparent anti-Puerto Rican statements at the woman was arrested and charged with assault and disorderly conduct. He was also later charged with a hate crime after numerous calls from elected officials and organizations condemning the man’s actions in the June 14 incident.
The suspect was identified by police as Timothy G. Trybus, age 62, of a redacted address in the report.
"I don’t think that it was blown out of proportion at all," Napolitano said in an interview. "This is not a representation of our ward and certainly not a representation of the Northwest Side of Chicago."
Napolitano said that as a former police officer he would have stepped in between the two people and attempted to stop the confrontation.
"You don’t speak to people like that. I feel bad for the woman but I applaud her that she was cool, calm and collected during the incident," Napolitano said.
Napolitano released an official statement that said: "Like many of you, I was appalled at the sight of a video taken at Caldwell Woods on June 14, 2018. The discriminatory comments made toward Ms. Irizarry were completely unacceptable. I have lived in this ward for 43 years and I can assure you that this man’s comments do not represent our community or our values.
"The inaction of the Forest Preserves Police officer was unacceptable and I commend the Forest Preserves of Cook County for their swift action in relieving the officer of his duties. I commend Ms. Irizarry for her courage in defending herself and sharing her story. She is always welcome here in 41," he said.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said in a statement that the incident at Caldwell Woods was "appalling and completely unacceptable."
"I am very sorry for the experience the young woman had to endure and I’m further troubled by the lack of response and action by the initial officer on the scene. The Forest Preserves immediately launched an investigation into the incident," Preckwinkle said.
Napolitano invited the woman back to the 41st Ward and to Edison Park Fest held from Aug. 17 to 19. "The woman is welcome in our ward. She should come to the fest so she can see how welcoming we are."
"Some drunk in the woods is not representative of our ward. You go to any sporting event and there are always some belligerent drunks but they don’t represent the City of Chicago either," Napolitano said.