Watch CBS News

CPD helicopter credited with finding suspect after shootout as more choppers are coming

New Chicago Police helicopters set to come before year's end
New Chicago Police helicopters set to come before year's end 02:51

CHICAGO (CBS) -- An eye in the sky is being credited with helping chase down a murder suspect after a dangerous shootout with Chicago Police in south suburban Dolton over the weekend.

Meanwhile, the City of Chicago is inching closer essentially to doubling the size of its fleet of helicopters.

Chicago currently has three helicopters. But as police Supt. Larry Snelling said back in the November CPD budget hearing, they are often down for maintenance.

CBS 2 has now learned two more choppers for the CPD, and one more for the Cook County Sheriff's Office, should arrive by the end of the year.

A CPD helicopter hovering above a chaotic scene in Dolton Saturday night got credit for finding an offender – who was taken into custody.

A police source told CBS 2 the man police were chasing in the helicopter were chasing could be connected to the shooting death of a security guard at a dollar store in the West Side's South Austin on Friday.

When the CPD approached the suspect in the 15200 block of South Meadow Lane in Dolton around 5:45 p.m. on Saturday, a shootout followed.

"It was about 10 shots," a witness said. "I saw police cars and something, and I heard the helicopter."

Fortunately, no officers were injured. But the shootout led to a chase in a residential area in the dark - aided by the helicopter's high-definition infrared cameras that gave officers on the ground an incredibly vivid image of where the suspect was.

The helicopter picked up a heat signature above the door, and discovered the suspect appearing to look out of the front of a garage.

The chopper could even tell where the suspect threw his cell phone.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said his office is anxiously awaiting the delivery of their new chopper, which he described as a "literal game-changer" in the fight against auto theft.

"Without the helicopters, you're left with license plate readers," Dart said recently, "and those can be helpful - but they have very obvious limitations.

The CPD's current aging fleet of three choppers was major issue debated during the department's latest budget hearing.

Chicago Police said Monday that they have not been given a timeline for when two new recently-purchased helicopters will be in service.

But a CBS2 Investigators review of the nearly $11.9 million January 2024 contract with manufacturer Bell Textron stipulates that the "helicopters shall be available for inspection and acceptance no later than December 31, 2024."

And officers on the ground — like those who were assisted by the helicopter Saturday night — are glad to hear it.

According to Bell Textron, a Texas-based aerospace manufacturer, there are nearly 18,000 public safety agencies across the U.S. - and currently fewer than 300 of them have helicopter support.

In the newsroom, Megan Hickey CBS2 Investigators. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.