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Shooting Outside Portage Theater 'Exactly What I Feared,' Alderman Says

 A man who attended a dance party at the Portage Theater Friday night was shot early Saturday.
A man who attended a dance party at the Portage Theater Friday night was shot early Saturday.
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

PORTAGE PARK — The shooting of a suburban man after a dance party at the Portage Theater must not be allowed to stymie the renaissance of Six Corners, Ald. John Arena (45th) said Monday.

A 22-year-old Aurora man, whom police identified as a gang member, was shot at 12:10 a.m. Saturday in the 4400 block of North LaPorte Avenue, Jefferson Park Police District Cmdr. Roger Bay said Monday. The man told police he was approached by nine or 10 men, and five or six shots were fired during the altercation, Bay said.

The man, who is a documented gang member on parole, was struck once in the shoulder, Bay said. He ran back to the theater — where he had attended a dance party for college students dubbed Don't Be Lazy — where police officers were patrolling, Bay said.

The man was taken to Illinois Masonic Medical Center, where his condition stabilized, Bay said.

No one is in custody for the shooting, Bay said.

"We have to make sure this is the first and last time we have this kind of violence near the Portage Theater," Arena said. "We have never had violence like this before.

"This is exactly what I feared," would happen when owner Eddie Carranza reopened the Portage Theater in June 2014, Arena said.

Heather Cherone says Arena wants to keep the area safe:

Arena said he would use all of the tools at his disposal to prevent more violence from erupting around the Portage Theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave., in the heart of the Six Corners Shopping District, which is home to more than two dozen new businesses after decades of boarded-up windows and empty storefronts.

If Six Corners develops a reputation as unsafe, the area's rebirth won't take root, Arena said.

That could mean using the city's ordinances designed to force businesses that create nuisances to clean up their acts or be shut down, Arena said.

"They are just renting out their liquor license to people who want to have a giant party," Arena said, adding that he used those tools to close the Capitol Club, which held similar events much to neighbors' dismay.

Arena said he wanted to sit down with theater managers to discuss the Portage Theater operations. But they have not responded in the past to requests from his office, Arena said.

Theater operator Charlie Burns — who pledged a year ago to make the Portage Theater a place Portage Park residents would be proud of — said he met Monday with city officials to discuss the shooting and would adjust the theater's operations based on their recommendations.

The theater's staff responded to the shooting two blocks away as they were trained, Burns said, adding that an off-duty firefighter working as a security guard provided first aid to the injured man before paramedics arrived.

The show was stopped, and the crowd of 300 to 500 people was "dispersed in an efficient and orderly way," Burns said.

But Bay said officers investigating the shooting had blocked off access to the city parking lot nearest the theater, making it impossible for many to leave the area. Additional officers were called to the area to control the crowd, Bay said. No arrests were made, he added.

The 95-year-old former movie palace was closed from May 2013 to June 2014 as part of a dispute between Carranza and Arena.

Carranza closed the Portage Theater after Arena said Carranza could not take over the liquor and public place of amusement licenses at the Six Corners theater because of his pockmarked track record at the Congress Theater in Logan Square.

Carranza lost his liquor license at the Congress Theater in May 2013 after city officials determined the theater "created a nuisance" because of five separate illegal incidents involving drugs from September 2011 to April 2012.

The shooting comes a week before one of the biggest events of the year at Six Corners, with the BBQ Fest scheduled to take place Friday through Sunday.

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