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Lightfoot Calls For Federal Investigation Of West Side Shootout After Foxx Accused Mayor Of Lying About Decision Not To File Charges

by Todd Feurer, Chris Tye, and Dana Kozlov

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A "mortified" Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx on Tuesday stood by her office's decision to reject charges in a deadly West Side shootout, and criticized Mayor Lori Lightfoot for making statements that "were not factually accurate" about the case, as the mayor is now calling for a federal investigation of the shooting.

As CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported, while Mayor Lightfoot demanded answers about the lack of charges in the shootout, Foxx did not give specifics. In addition to insinuating that the mayor was lying, Foxx also criticized the mayor's grounds as being politically motivated.

Foxx said there is not yet sufficient evidence to file charges in the case, and said top brass at the Chicago Police Department agrees with her assessment of the case, saying it was "inappropriate" for Lightfoot to discuss the facts of the case in public while it remains under investigation.

"I was quite honestly mortified by what happened yesterday, particularly because the mayor, as a former prosecutor, knows that what she did yesterday was inappropriate," Foxx said.

The dispute stems from a shootout last week in the North Austin neighborhood, which left one person dead and two others wounded. The shootout was witnessed by Chicago police officers, and caught on surveillance video, but no charges have been filed in the case.

"We do not politicize the death of children for sport," Foxx said.

On Tuesday, Lightfoot repeated her call for Foxx's office to reconsider its decision to reject charges in the case.

"I'd like her to explain, because I can't explain it," the mayor said. "We have to understand how it's possible, when this kind of shootout is captured on film, that there were no charges of any person, even though people were brought into custody and arrested."

Lightfoot said she will be meeting with Foxx to discuss the case, but added she is also asking the U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago to look into the possibility of filing federal charges.

"I think what people want to know is how is it possible, given what we saw, that we've all seen on videotape, with officers on the scene, that not a single person has been charged," Lightfoot said. "This isn't about pointing fingers and doing that. We've got a responsibility to our residents, and we have a responsibility to make sure that those who are wreaking havoc in our community are held accountable. It's a simple matter of justice. That's what our residents want."

However, Foxx said that, just because there might be video evidence in a specific case does not mean there is sufficient evidence to charge someone.

"We can't just try cases on videos. We need witnesses to come forward," Foxx said. "In order for us to bring charges in a case, it's not simply we saw a video of something happen. We need to be able to say that the person who we arrested and charged is the same person who engaged in the act."

She said that means prosecutors need a witness who can testify that the person being arrested and charged is the same person seen committing a crime on video.

That explanation apparently wasn't good enough for Lightfoot.

"There are circumstances when you absolutely need to have a witness to identify who did something. This entire episode was captured on videotape; multiple videotapes," she said. "So I just want to understand, this old prosecutor wants to understand, how it's possible that not a single charge – not a gun charge, not an attempted murder charge, disturbing a peace – but something to send a message that there's going to be accountability when people open up and fire into a residence in broad daylight in our city. Something must be done."

The mayor has said a lack of consequences for violent crime will only embolden criminals, and "send this city into chaos."

While denying she was pointing a finger back at the Chicago Police Department, Foxx said, of the 13,374 shootings that have happened in Chicago between the time she took office in 2016 and the end of July 2021, only 2,447 have resulted in an arrest by CPD, leaving more than 11,000 unsolved shootings.

"This isn't me pointing fingers. Again, this isn't me being defensive. This is us in the state's attorney's office wanting to work with our law enforcement partners, because when we know when we have that many unsolved shootings, there is a sense that people can get away with murder with impunity, and that makes our communities less safe," she said.

Chicago Police said around 10:30 a.m. Friday, 25th (Grand Central) District tactical officers responded to a call of a man with a gun near Potomac and Mason avenues. When they arrived on the scene, they saw four people get out of two cars in front of a home in the 1200 block of North Mason Avenue, and start shooting at the house.

People inside the home returned fire, shooting one of the attackers, as other assailants fled the scene in the two vehicles.

The assailant who was shot was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Two people who were wounded inside the home also went to the hospital, but their conditions were not available.

One of the vehicles that fled the scene was later found burned out near Lockwood and Chicago avenues. The second vehicle that fled the scene crashed in Oak Park near Austin Boulevard and Harrison Street. Oak Park police said the driver ran off after crashing, but was arrested in the 700 block of Lyman Avenue, with the help of Chicago Police and a canine unit.

Police said two other people were taken into the custody of Area Five detectives before they were eventually all released.

"They were shooting to kill," Mayor Lightfoot said Tuesday. "There has got to be accountability for them, and that accountability has to start with getting a good investigation, getting them charged, and holding them responsible in a court."

Foxx contended Lightfoot's statements about the evidence in the case "simply weren't true," and said that, as a former federal prosecutor, the mayor should know better than to try the case in the media.

"I find myself here today having to respond to a narrative that was given by the mayor yesterday regarding a case that is still under investigation," she said. "It was inappropriate. It was wrong. As a prosecutor who understands the oath, and as a former prosecutor, discussing the facts of this case in the press without the benefit of all of the evidence does a disservice to the communities who have been impacted by this violence."

Foxx said her office is prepared to bring charges if and when there is sufficient evidence to make an arrest.

"We will continue to work with our partners in law enforcement to ensure that the necessary work is done, so that we may bring charges and ultimately secure a conviction for those who engage in the violence that we've seen across this city," she said.

The mayor said, if prosecutors need more evidence to file charges in the case, they need to let police know what it is.

"So we're just asking the state's attorney, please reevaluate the evidence, look to make charges. If there's more evidence that needs to be found beyond the videotape, police officers from Chicago and Oak Park, dashcam, body cam, tell us what that is, and the Police Department will  work its tail off to get there," she said. "But it's hard for me to understand that nobody got charged with nothing. It leads to brazenness."

Meantime, Foxx suggested Lightfoot's statements about the case could compromise a potential prosecution in the future, should evidence warrant charges down the line.

"I want to end trying cases in the media. At the end of the day, the statements that were made yesterday that were not factually accurate, should this case be ready for charging, may pose potential issues. Nobody wants that, not for a political stunt, not for a press hit," she said. "There's a shootout in Austin. Our number one concern should be about getting those people prosecuted, not a headline diverting attention away from the fact that we have not had comprehensive plans in mind."

Foxx also noted that Chicago Police Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan twice on Monday acknowledged that police agreed there was not sufficient to bring charges in the case, even for simple firearms offenses.

At a police budget hearing on Monday, Deenihan told aldermen that video evidence doesn't clearly show who was firing weapons during the shooting, and the people in custody aren't cooperating with detectives, so police can't determine who was shooting, much less who started it.

However, Lightfoot said Police Supt. David Brown disagreed with the decision not to file charges in the case, and said she has questions for Deenihan.

"The question that I'm going to have for him, when I see him shortly, candidly, is if this happened in Beverly, if this happened in Mount Greenwood, if this happened anywhere on the North Side, would there really be no clarity? You've seen the video," she said. "It is mind-boggling to me, as a former federal prosecutor, but I also think as lay people … people simply do not understand how you could have a firefight initiated by people where you know who started it, saw the cars roaming around that house, we see the individuals get out of that car and initiate a firefight."

CBS 2 reached out Chicago Police Tuesday to ask whether there are different yardsticks in how they investigate crime in different neighborhoods, as the mayor intimated.

The mayor said two suspects were quickly taken into custody after the shooting, and both had guns when they were captured, yet they still aren't facing any criminal charges.

"We need to understand how it is that no one got charged with anything, and I'm going to have the same question for him (Deenihan) when I see him shortly," Lightfoot said.

Foxx said, despite the crisis of gun violence in Chicago, prosecutors "cannot cut corners" to bring charges in any specific case. She also noted that Cook County has been the source of the most wrongful convictions in the country because of an "anything goes" approach to criminal cases in the 1980s and 1990s.

"We cannot play games. We must operate as the professionals that we are, and that means as prosecutors we don't engage on the facts and the evidence in the case in the media. And we would expect that our partners, especially those who served as prosecutors, would recognize that, and more importantly in engaging in that will tell the truth," she said.

Foxx made it clear that she thinks Mayor Lightfoot is performing political theatre. She even compared Mayor Lightfoot's remarks on Tuesday to an infamous headline 40 years ago – in 1981, in an effort to understand the plight of the poor, Mayor Jane Byrne moved into the Cabrini-Green public housing development for three weeks.

At the time, Foxx was a preteen living in the Near North Side housing development.

"And I remember the feelings of the people who lived there who didn't want elected officials doing stunts - they wanted solutions," Foxx said. "That's where we are right now."

Foxx also mentioned concerns about cases coming from Area Five detectives, and said her office has had conversations with Supt. Brown about it.

Meanwhile, another former Cook County prosecutor see the mayor's concerns, and the shootout, differently. He took issue with the idea that charges might not be filed because the case may not be a slam-dunk prosecution.

"Just to let this drop; to kind of say, 'You know, it's not handed to me on a silver platter' - well guess what – a lot of things aren't," said Pat O'Brien.

O'Brien ran against Foxx last election, and supports Mayor Lightfoot's choice not to back down.

"For the mayor not to criticize the State's Attorney and bring this up, I think, would be worse," he said.

Foxx said she would like to have a meeting with Lightfoot, Brown, and Area Five detectives "so that we can have a common understanding that is not filtered through press or leaks to discuss the concerns that have been raised out of a number of cases that have come out of Area Five."

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