Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office refused to charge five men arrested in connection with a gang-related gunfight that left at least one person dead and two wounded, even though police requested a number of felony charges for each individual suspect because the five men were “mutual combatants.”
The five men were released, leaving Chicago officials, including mayor Lori Lightfoot, incensed.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the men “linked to a deadly gang-related shootout Friday in Austin were released from custody after prosecutors declined to charge each of them with a pair of felonies, including first-degree murder,” even though “police sought to charge all five suspects with murder and aggravated battery.”
“The brazen mid-morning gunfight, which left one shooter dead and two of the suspects wounded, stemmed from an internal dispute between two factions of the Four Corner Hustlers street gang, according to an internal police report and a law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation,” the outlet noted.
All five suspects were “released without charges” on Sunday because, according to the State’s Attorney’s office, they were targeting each other.
A spokeswoman first claimed that prosecutors had “determined that the evidence was insufficient to meet our burden of proof to approve felony charges,” without specifying what evidence might be necessary to bring charges the Chicago Police Department felt were warranted. A later said noted that “[m]utual combatants was cited as the reason for the rejection,” a designation the Sun-Times noted refers to “a fight or struggle that two parties willingly engage in.”
The Cook County prosecutor released another individual from custody last week for the same reason, despite indications that they were engaging in gang violence.
One source that spoke to Chicago media said prosecutors’ recent decision not to charge suspected gang members when they target each other would only lead to more violence.
“It’s just like the Wild West,” the source told the Sun-Times.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot who, like Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown, is a frequent critic of Foxx’s office, largely over Foxx’s lenient bail policies, which often let even violent offenders stay out of jail pending trial, warned that Foxx’s decision could send the city “into chaos.” Chicago is already looking at a record number of homicides and shootings in 2021, and according to CWB Chicago, at least 45 of those incidents involved individuals out on bond.
“If they do not feel like the criminal justice system is going to hold them accountable, we’re going to see a level of brazenness that will send this city into chaos,” she said of suspected gang members. “And we cannot let that happen.”
“It’s complicated, for sure, but we really urge the state’s attorney herself to get personally involved, look at the evidence,” Lightfoot told media at a press conference on a separate issue. “And I believe that there are charges that can be brought at a minimum against the individuals who initiated the gunfire. We can’t live in a world where there’s no accountability.”
Foxx fired back that she doesn’t “play politics.”
“The mayor, as a former prosecutor, knows of the ethical obligations of the prosecutor, which is to only bring forth charges where the evidence and the law support it,” Foxx told reporters.
“I don’t play politics,” she continued. “We do prosecutions. And it’s why we do our best to not engage in public conversations about cases because we recognize that as tragic and horrific as these incidents are, that if we want to see criminal justice and accountability, we do that in the courtroom.”