LINCOLN SQUARE — The victim of last week's fatal shooting in the parking lot of the Lincoln Square McDonald's chose the spot to conduct a drug deal precisely because the neighborhood is safe, 20th District Cmdr. James Jones told residents at a Tuesday night community policing meeting.
The area is well-lit, the restaurant draws constant foot traffic and cars are continually passing along Western and Lincoln avenues.
"The person selling the drugs feels safe," said Jones, who added that Dominick's and Jewel parking lots are frequently used for similar purposes. "In this case the victim got shot because there was an argument over money."
Both Jones and Ald. Pat O'Connor (40th) were in attendance at the bi-monthly CAPS beat meeting, an unusual show of force aimed at reassuring residents that the shooting was, in O'Connor's words, "an anomaly."
In the days immediately following the shooting, O'Connor said he met with the management of McDonald's and Lincoln Square Lanes bowling alley, which share the parking lot with Matty K's Hardware.
"Everything's aligned to make that corner better for us. Everyone's been very cooperative," said the alderman. "I think we can feel confident going forward that we can use what happened as an opportunity to make the neighborhood safer."
For starters, he said, "the lot will be under greater surveillance." A representative from McDonald's circulated copies of the restaurant's plan to install additional security cameras on top of the 16 that already monitor the property.
Ryan Drehobl, general manager of Lincoln Square Lanes, said he also plans to add more security cameras and will be hiring a third security guard/bouncer to keep an eye on the bowling alley's street-level entryway.
Drehobl, who had left work just minutes before the shooting took place, credited police officers for their aggressive response.
The day after the shooting, friends and family of the victim, 24-year-old Irbinzon Gonzalez, congregated in the parking lot to hold a vigil.
"Forty cops showed up and arrested three or four people," said Drehobl. "The cops are on top of their watch."
Jones was also able to provide more information about Gonzalez, who lived within Beat 2031's boundaries on the 2600 block of West Winnemac Avenue.
"I asked Narcotics to come in — he hadn't been on their radar," said Jones. "There's nothing to show he had been doing anything on that block. Most of his activity occurred farther south and west."
In the past year, Gonzalez had been arrested three times on gun and drug charges but had been released after serving minimal jail time, according to Jones.
"The result is what happened to him," the commander said, adding that the victim's family members were now under increased police scrutiny.
Jones called the 20th District "very unique" in that little of the area's crime is perpetrated by residents.
"A lot of the offenders are not from this district," he said. "My thought is to put a wall around the district and stop all the crap from coming in."