Police say arrest is expected in Dec. 5 murder in Jefferson Park, ask for help in identifying illegal clubs; Alderman Gardiner holds meeting on recent gunfire in the area
by BRIAN NADIG
At a Dec. 10 community meeting hosted by Alderman Jim Gardiner (45th), police officials said that an arrest is anticipated in the recent murder of a 19-year-old woman outside an after-hours party in a storefront at Central and Lawrence avenues and that the community’s help is needed in identifying illegal clubs.
Few details were given on the status of the investigation into the fatal Dec. 5 shooting, but the two men who were also shot in the incident are expected to recover and have been cooperating with police, according to Detective Eric Winstrom.
Gunfire broke out as people were leaving a rear entrance of the unlicensed club, which has since been shut down by enforcement agencies, according to police.
Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown told the crowd that the fact that few details are being released about the investigation should be taken as a positive sign that detectives have solid leads in the case and that they do not want to jeopardize their progress.
“I’m extremely confident we will clear this case,” Winstrom said. “There’s a ton of evidence. It’s a big case.”
It also was reported that the owner of the building where the unlicensed club had been operating has been cooperating with city agencies and police. The business obtained a lease for the storefront in October, and the owner believed the tenants planned to go through the proper channels to get licenses for a café, according to a representative of the city Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.
16th (Jefferson Park) District captain Mike Barz said that officers will be making list of vacant buildings that potentially could be used for illegal club activity and that the district will be taking a “zero tolerance” approach to unlicensed social clubs and nightclubs and to licensed establishments that are hosting late-night activity that goes beyond the scope of their licenses.
“I hope you’re nosy (neighbors),” Brown said, urging residents to immediately report anytime they see crowds going into and out of storefronts that are boarded up or have tinted or blocked windows. “We really need your help on that.”
Illegal clubs “bring trouble,” Brown added.
Brown said that officers have taken a record number of illegal guns off the street in the past year but that too often the suspects are being released with no bond or a low one. He also said that all police districts have fewer officers than 18 months ago due the challenges of hiring new officers, especially with the “hyper” criticism police are facing nowadays. He said that young people see that criticism and do not want to be an officer.
It was reported during the meeting that the 16th District has “well over 200” officers, not including supervisors, but one officer privately said the figure is significantly lower. “We’re operating on fumes (in the district),” the officer said.
Gardiner said that the community will have to work together to address problems of violence and that he wanted to share a conversation he had earlier in the day with the principal of Meagan Bilbo, the teen who was killed on Dec. 5.
The principal described Meagan, a Portage Park resident, as a vibrant, artistic, intelligent person who looked out for others, Gardiner said. “Meagan’s life was cut short tragically,” he said.
It also was reported that she was not targeted by the offenders.
“This was not something that was intended for her,” Gardiner said.
About 300 people attended the 2.5 hour meeting, which was held at Saint Constance School.