LAKEVIEW — Amid a tense week of protests against police brutality in Chicago and national mourning of slain police officers in Dallas, one Chicago officer said a recent incident in Lakeview highlights the need to protect first responders.
Officer John Pham, who is unnamed in a Chicago Police Department Facebook post, shared his account of the Sunday afternoon incident before reflecting on the role police play in the community.
Around 3 p.m., Pham was off duty but noticed two men "casing the area," circling a two-block radius near Sheffield and Barry avenues, he said. Seconds later, he heard someone scream for help.
"I switched from being an everyday, ordinary citizen walking to get food to a police officer running to the sound of someone screaming, desperate for help," Pham wrote.
Police said David S. Shabazz, 20, and Juwan Askew, 18, attacked a 63-year-old man. Shabazz is accused of punching the victim and pointing a gun at him before the pair continued to beat him while rifling through his pockets, according to a police news release.
Pham, who currently works in the Rogers Park District, drew his weapon and identified himself, he said. When the suspected robbers fled southeast toward Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, the officer gave chase and called 911. He was eventually joined by Town Hall police and hospital security staff.
Shabazz and Askew were arrested in the hospital parking garage after a short search. Police found a loaded .38 caliber handgun in Shabazz's back pocket, court records state.
Both men were charged with aggravated battery to a senior and armed robbery.
Shabazz is being held without bail and was also charged with unlawful use of a weapon. Askew was charged with resisting arrest, and his bail was set at $500,000 Monday.
Pham wrote in his letter that such incidents show the need for the proposed "Blue Lives Matter" ordinance, which would categorize offenses committed against police, firefighters and emergency responders as hate crimes.
"Being a police officer is putting our own safety at risk. We are there for the public, and we need the public to be there for us," he said. "This ordinance protects first responders from criminals who [are] carelessly and viciously injuring us every day."
While he said police officers "are not perfect," the community depends on them for protection. As part of the community they serve, "we are ordinary citizens too, cops second," he said.
"Being a police officer, you are never 'off-duty,' and always try to do the right thing," he wrote. "People don't realize how much work it takes to thoroughly investigate a crime like this in order to put the bad guys behind bars."
The ordinance is unlikely to see action this summer.
Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th), chairman of the Public Safety Committee, said Monday that the timing of the ordinance was off, although "very important."
"Given the movement that's going on, I would appreciate it if we could address that at a later date," Reboyras said. "We just want to see if we can delay it a little while."
Activists with the Bluest Lie Collective, an umbrella group including Black Lives Matter Chicago, have argued against it, insisting it would have a chilling effect on protests like the ones that shook the city over the weekend after a pair of police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota last week, and the Dallas sniper attack Thursday on police monitoring a peaceful protest.
The American Civil Liberties Union has likewise come out in opposition, labeling the ordinance a "distraction" in the ongoing debate between protesters and police.
Read Pham's full letter here:
Contributing: Ted Cox
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