WASHINGTON PARK — Independence Day celebrations were interrupted Thursday afternoon when police shot and killed a teenager as he sprinted across State Street in the Washington Park neighborhood.
Police said the teen, identified by the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office as 17-year-old Christian Green, was seen acting suspiciously around 1 p.m. in a schoolyard near 58th Street and Michigan Avenue.
Patrick Camden, a spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police, said officers had dispersed a group of gang members from the area earlier, and went up to talk to Green, of the 5800 block of South Champlain Avenue.
When they approached him, he fled, running through the schoolyard and some vacant lots while holding his side, police said.
As he sprinted around a liquor store near 57th and State streets, Green dropped the gun and stopped to pick it up. He grabbed it and started running again, police said.
When police told him to stop, Green pointed the gun at one of the officers, who then shot him, police said.
"They get to State Street, the individual turns around … gun in hand, pointing it at officers," Camden said. "The officers fire in defense of their life."
Hit by one or more shots, Green fell in the street near 56th and State. He was taken to the Stroger Hospital in critical condition and later pronounced dead there at 2:31 p.m., officials said.
Officers recovered a handgun at the scene, police said.
As crime scene tape stretched across the intersection of 56th and State, people claiming to have witnessed the shooting milled about and vehemently denied Green had a gun. They criticized police for what they described as a "trigger-happy" approach to stopping crime.
"That's what the police do with young black men, they pull their guns out," said Jasmine Payton, 40, grieving for Green's mother.
Neighbors identified the teen as Green, a "nice kid" and student at DuSable High School.
Payton said he was seen earlier in the day with a Roman candle. She theorized teens were lighting fireworks, and police mistook the sound for gunfire.
Appalonia Jones, 20, said she immediately recognized the "pop, pop, pop" as gunfire rather than the sound of fireworks.
She and her sister, Yemimah Yisreal, also 20, said they talked to Green Thursday morning when he called to talk to their little brother.
"Shooting an innocent child ... they should lose their badge," said Jones. "They killed that boy in cold blood."
Yisreal said Green used to live in her apartment building on Garfield Boulevard.
Others said the area is a "hot spot" for gang violence and gunfire.
"That's shootout alley right there," said Antoine Mills, 38, pointing out a gate riddled with bullet holes near the mouth of an alley off 56th and just east of State.
He said he heard Green was running and reached down only to pull up his pants.
"They thought he was going for a gun, and they shot him," he said. "I can't say it's an injustice. The police knew him and knew what he was about."
Camden disputed those claims.
"They could clearly see the gun," Camden said, pointing out the weapon had been recovered. "This has nothing to do with fireworks."