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Ald. Cullerton: Shooting Near Portage Park Evidence of 'Gang Influx'

  A 25-year-old man was shot Thursday after leaving a Portage Park club.
Ald. Cullerton: Shooting Near Portage Park Evidence of 'Gang Influx'
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PORTAGE PARK — The 25-year-old man shot in the arm Friday morning as he left a club near Portage Park is a gang member and is not cooperating with police, Ald. Tim Cullerton (38th) said.

The shooting, which occurred around 2 a.m. in the 4000 block of North Long Avenue outside Club E, is the fifth in eight weeks in the typically quiet far Northwest Side neighborhood, and the second across the street from Portage Park itself.

"This is definitely more gang activity than we've ever seen," Cullerton said in an interview, adding that he plans to meet with Chicago Police Superintendent Gerry McCarthy and Jefferson Park Police District Commander James O'Donnell as soon as possible about the violent incident. "I want to see what their strategy is to fight the gang influx. They have to step up their efforts."

The man, whose drivers' license has a Northlake address, was walking with a woman from the club near Irving Park and Long Avenue Road to his car when someone came out of the shadows and fired two shots, striking him in the arm, Cullerton said.

He was taken to Illinois Masonic Medical Center in stable condition, said Officer Hector Alfaro, a police spokesman.

The victim is a member of the Maniac Latin Disciples and is refusing to cooperate with police, Cullerton said.

"This is very disturbing," said Cullerton, who lives less than a block from the scene of the shooting but said he did not hear anything.

Another Chicago police spokesman, Adam Collins, said although there has been fewer shootings and fewer murders in Chicago this year "there's certainly more work to be done and no one will rest until we reach the ultimate goal of zero crime." 

The department's strategy includes assigning high-crime areas with additional officers and working prevent retaliatory gang shootings, Collins said.

A police department "tactical team" and a beat car were just blocks away from the shooting when it occurred, but the gunman had already fled, Cullerton said.

"This isn't about a shortage of police," Cullerton said. "You can't have one on every corner."

Officers will be assigned to patrol outside the club at closing time, Cullerton said, adding that he plans to meet with the club's owner and encourage her to increase the number of security guards outside the club after it closes and to change her policy of renting the club to various event promoters.

"I don't know that I put the blame directly on the owner for this," Cullerton said. "But she has to be more responsible for outside security."

Club E, which used to be known as Club Euro, features Latin, hip hop, house and top 40 music. It has been a source of repeated complaints, Cullerton said. Owner Janina Dzdyk, who said she has worked at the club for 26 years, said she was shocked by the shooting, the first in her time with the club.

"Of course we will do everything we can to protect our patrons and our neighbors," Dzdyk said, adding that she is willing to meet with Cullerton. "We don't need this sort of thing. We will do our best to make sure it never happens again."

At a community meeting Sept. 9 hosted by Cullerton to discuss the rash of shootings, several neighbors complained about noise and drug use outside the club. A woman said club patrons had broken a window in her house. 

At that meeting, O'Donnell urged Portage Park residents to look at the big picture — the far Northwest Side neighborhood is still among the safest in Chicago.

Nevertheless, a "saturation team" was assigned to patrol the four blocks around Portage Park at Irving Park Road and Central Avenue at Cullerton's request after four shootings in August.

Two men were wounded while walking Aug. 10 in the 5800 block of Irving Park Road. One was a member of the Latin Kings who had been arrested nearly three dozen times, O'Donnell said.

The next day, a 4-year-old girl and two others were shot and injured when a gunman pulled up next to her family's car and sprayed it with bullets near Irving Park Road and Central Avenue outside Portage Park itself in what police called a case of mistaken identity.

On Aug. 25, no one was hurt in two daytime shootings near Berteau and Menard avenues as well as at Irving Park Road and Monitor Avenue.

"It is difficult to prevent these shootings," Cullerton said. "But we can do more."