HUMBOLDT PARK — The post office has suspended service to the 3200 block of West North Avenue after a standoff between a mail carrier and a dog owner landed the postal worker in the hospital and her alleged assailant in jail Saturday.
A 35-year-old mail carrier was making deliveries on that block when an "unrestrained dog" approached her, according to Mark Reynolds, a post office spokesman.
Mail carriers are issued pepper spray and trained to deploy it when threatened by a dog, which the seven-year veteran of the postal service did at about 1:23 p.m. Aug. 2, according to Officer John Mirabelli, a police spokesman.
"We do have a very serious dog-bite problem nationwide, and especially in Chicago, so carriers are given extensive training on how to protect themselves from dog attacks and using the spray is one of them," Reynolds said.
The dog's owner, Laurentina Espadas, 30, allegedly "became upset that the dog had been maced and, according to the victim, proceeded to punch the postal worker in the head and neck with her fist," Mirabelli said.
The mail carrier was taken by ambulance to St. Mary's hospital for observation after complaining of head and neck pain, Mirabelli said. Espadas was arrested on the scene and charged with misdemeanor battery.
In response to the incident, the post office made the "pretty rare" decision to suspend delivery to that block for an indefinite period of time, according to Reynolds.
"It's temporary...[but] there's no threshold in place at this time," he said. "We're hoping to meet with some community leaders in the very near future. After we meet with them, we'll proceed accordingly."
Reynolds said postal workers rarely have conflict with dog owners, but said dog attacks are more common in Chicago than elsewhere. The postal service tracks these incidents, and in a recent ranking, "we were among the top five cities in the country for dog bite incidents," he said.
Residents and businesses affected can collect their mail at 2339 N. California Ave. until further notice.
"We understand that it's an inconvenience in some respect, but our primary concern is the safety and security of our employees," Reynolds said. "We want to deliver the mail every day. We would much prefer to do that. But if it's a situation where one of our carriers is endangered, we obviously have to act accordingly."
The victim is "still at home recuperating from her injuries," Reynolds said. Once she recovers, she may be reassigned to a new delivery area.
John Roesser, fourth-generation manager of Roesser's Bakery said he didn't hear about the mail stoppage until another business owner on the block let him know.
"I new something was going on because I hadn't gotten my mail for a couple of days and that just doesn't happen," he said. "Even on a light day I get 10 letters or so."
So, like everyone else on the north side of the block, Roesser has to trek nearly two miles to the 60647 post office.
But Roesser said while it's an unfortunate turn of events, he understands.
"I mean, obviously I have a lot of things going on and its not optimal to take a half an hour out of my day to pick up my mail but at the same time if that's the measure they think they have to take then so be it. I want my fellow citizens to feel safe."
Roesser said he picked up a big stack of mail on Wednesday and plans to return for the next batch either Saturday or Monday.
He said he has no idea when things might return to normal.
"To be honest, I haven't received any word from anybody. I just know I have to go pick up my mail," he said.
Wanda Daveras, a receptionist at a dentist's office, said she, too, learned of the stoppage from a neighbor.
"We worried because we hadn't received any mail this week," she said.
Daveras said she was not pleased with having to take special trips to the post office.
"Yes it's annoying, because it's our time," she said.
Even U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez has been affected.
A staffer confirmed his local office at 3210 W. North Ave. has not received mail all week, though a spokesman did not immediately provide additional comment.