CHICAGO — Chicago police said a white woman's claim that she was robbed of $200,000 in jewelry and cash Wednesday afternoon while shopping downtown along the Magnificent Mile was a hoax, but many black leaders and others found it particularly troubling.
"What she did was racist. She told the police that she was robbed by a group of black teenagers when all along she was lying," said Steve Johnson, 35, who lives in the Calumet Heights neighborhood. "This reminds me of the movie 'Rosewood' when a white woman accused a black man of raping her. I hope the police charge her like they do everyone else."
As of Friday, Chicago police had not determined if the 68-year-old woman would be charged with any crimes.
"Chicago police have determined that the reported Michigan Avenue robbery of a 68-year-old woman is unfounded," Chicago police said in a statement. "Detectives confronted the victim with inconsistencies between her account of the incident and recovered video, and learned that the story was not true."
Constance Sherrod, CEO of The Sherrod Law Firm in Chicago, said police could charge the woman with felony disorderly conduct, since she filed a false report claiming to be the victim of a felony crime.
Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown is all for the woman being charged, calling her actions malicious.
"If this is true, and this woman lied, then she should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. This kind of lie has a potential of fueling racism in the city and causing young people to be arrested unfairly, giving them a criminal record and ruining their lives," Brown said. "There must be a zero tolerance for such false allegations. And I applaud the Chicago Police Department for their unbiased and fair investigation of this incident."
Joi Green, 35, works at Northwestern Memorial Hospital not far from where the alleged robbery occurred.
"I had just returned from outside and I don't remember seeing any large groups of boys running or walking around. Not during the afternoon," recalled Green. "Now, if she has a mental problem then I can see why she said what she said. But if that is not the case, then what she did was very racist."
However, other blacks didn't agree the incident was an example of racism.
"You got to give her credit. She told a lie that was believable. If you're going to lie you might as well tell one that people will believe and everyone bought her tale of black youth robbing her," said Chuck Ransom, 40, who lives in the Washington Park neighborhood. "I don't necessarily see what she did as racist, though. It's more the mentality of those in the black community who think black youth are a threat to society."
Even still, Tio Hardiman, director of CeaseFire Illinois, a Chicago non-profit organization that offers conflict resolutions techniques to youth, said the damage has already been done.
"African-American youth are stereotyped by society already. Now they really will be stereotyped with something like this," Hardiman said. "It is my fear that the next time a robbery actually occurs downtown, innocent African-American males will be targeted because of false claims like this."