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'Complete Mayhem': Brawls, Gunshots Engulf Uptown Park Over the Weekend

By Adeshina Emmanuel | August 27, 2014 6:42am
 Ald. James Cappleman said police are ramping up patrols of Clarendon Park after violent videos surfaced.
Ald. James Cappleman said police are ramping up patrols of Clarendon Park after violent videos surfaced.
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UPTOWN — After a violent weekend near Uptown's lakefront, police are ramping up patrols and making plans to "quell illegal activity" in the area, according to Ald. James Cappleman (46th).

"Complete mayhem," is how one neighborhood leader described the weekend's incidents.

Some of the violence was captured in two videos posted on YouTube, including one captured from an Uptown high rise Saturday that shows a melee in the street outside Clarendon Park as police sirens and gunshots sound off in the night.

Watch the video here:


The video first shows several police squad cars with their blue lights flashing outside of and just south of Clarendon Park, 4501 N. Clarendon Ave. Then the camera pans north and shows people on Clarendon Avenue, where a man dressed in all white brawls with a man in a dark shirt as gunshots erupt and women scream. 

A silver car stops in front of the two men as others rush from the park to join the fray as the gunshots continue. Uptown Update reported that neighbors heard 20-25 shots fired around 10 p.m. It isn't clear in the video where the bullets are coming from.

"Get in the car!" a woman screams at one point, at which two of the men do and the car drives away.

Next, police close in from both directions, including a detective's sedan, several squad cars and officers on foot. The crowd at the scene of the brawl, including fighters and bystanders, scatter.

Adeshina Emmanuel says neighbors are skeptical about the response to the violence:

At least four police officers are shown standing at the scene of the melee, and the camera pans south again on Clarendon Avenue to show a sea of blue lights from police cars.

The whole scene played out in about two minutes.

A police spokeswoman said it started about 10:05 p.m.

She said officers responded to calls of shots fired and found "a large group of people that dispersed and ran in every direction" once officers showed up with reinforcements. Officers heard shots but didn't hear who was shooting, and didn't have "an exact offender" so nobody was arrested, she said.

The incident was documented as a weapons violation, and a vehicle in the parking lot surrounded by shell casings was held for investigation.

There were no reports of any injuries from the gunfire.

However, on Sunday, a man was shot in the shoulder near the same location, police said. He was taken to the hospital in good condition. The shooter in that incident has not been apprehended.

The man who filmed Saturday's incident captured the aftermath of the Sunday shooting as well, with a caption on the video that says, "shooting victim in all black."

In that video, a man is heard asking, "Are you hit?" on the street below, and another man responds, "Yeah, twice." The group of men then starts walking toward Weiss Memorial Hospital.

"Second night in a row," says the man narrating the video.

Park staff and neighbors have long reported problems with drug and gang activity, although the park is often a peaceful place occupied by kids and families. The park sits inside territory for the Conservative Vice Lord gang, which often clashes with Black P Stone gang members that frequent the Sheridan Park area west of there.

Cappleman tweeted Monday: "Police Commander will be stepping up more patrols around Clarendon Park Fieldhouse. Reviewing Police & Park plans to quell illegal activity." And his chief of staff Tressa Feher said in a statement Tuesday that "the police are working with the Park District to coordinate and have increased patrols in the area."

While the source of Saturday's violence is unclear, a former gang member who now heads a violence intervention program in Uptown says some of the Clarendon chaos from Sunday can be attributed to "a conflict between the Conservative Vice Lords and the Four Corner Hustlers, who are usually allies, but they've been falling out recently."

"There's so many things that are probably causing this ... there's a lot of gang conflict because the CVLs aren't as invested in all the shooting, and the Four Corner Hustlers have lost people to shootings [by other gangs]."

He said he is in talks with leaders from both organizations, which share territory at Clarendon, "to get to the source of the conflict."

"I don't know if it can be reconciled, but we definitely don't want them to start killing each other in this tiny space on top of everything else happening," he said.

Clarendon Park Advisory Council President Katharine Boyda said the park wasn't the only chaotic site Saturday.

"I called it complete mayhem from Clarendon Park to Sheridan Park," Boyda said Tuesday, giving an account of how large, riled up groups of largely adults and some teens were also spotted west of Clarendon Park, in the Sheridan Park area after Saturday's melee.

Neighbors reported "gang fights" and a drive-by shooting in the 1100 block of West Wilson Avenue where nobody was hit, but bullets damaged the windows of a nearby Jimmy John's restaurant.

Boyda called Uptown a "pretty segregated" community despite its economic and racial diversity, and said despite CAPS meetings, authorities urging folks to call 911 and other "typical" responses to crime flare-ups, "We don't have a community based approach."

"There is never the bringing of the community together to say, 'We have a problem, and we need to address it, and how do we collectively rethink how to bring peace back to this neighborhood,'" she said.

Boyda said she and other neighbors have asked the park district to hold a community meeting at Clarendon Park so neighbors can discuss "how do we deal with this?"

Asked about what's being done in response to the incidents in Sheridan Park, Feher wrote in an email Tuesday that police "are keeping an eye on Sheridan Park as well."

Town Hall District Commander Elias Voulgaris could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

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