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Southwest suburban Chicago restaurant's windows struck in shootout

Bullets fly through restaurant during shootout in southwest Chicago suburbs
Bullets fly through restaurant during shootout in southwest Chicago suburbs 00:45

CREST HILL, Ill. (CBS) -- Customers ducked for cover Tuesday afternoon after bullets flew through a restaurant in southwest suburban Crest Hill, and businesses across a road in Joliet.

The bullets were from a shootout that happened on both sides of Theodore Street, which is the boundary between the municipalities in the area. Police were called to the scene just after 1 p.m.

At Merichka's Restaurant, at 604 Theodore St. in Crest Hill, broken glass and bullet holes were seen in the windows.

Merichka's has been owned and operated by the same family since 1933. Joe Zdralevich is part of that family, and the current manager, and he said he had heard the shootout happened between two groups – one in the parking lot for Merichka's, the other in a parking lot for a strip mall across the road in Joliet.

They were firing at each other across the street and the town line, Zdralevich said.

"And we were caught – the restaurant was caught in the crossfire, basically. And a couple holes – a couple bullets penetrated some windows, and a couple more bullets penetrated the siding of our waiting area," Zdralevich said. "And fortunately no one was hit in that general area at that time. So, as far as I know, no one was hit at all from any side of the street."

Joliet police reported they found spent shell casings in the strip mall parking lot Zdralevich mentioned. Two businesses there – Envisions Salon and Ascendant Iron – were also damaged by several rounds of gunfire, Joliet police said.

Two parked cars in the lot were also struck by gunfire, Joliet police said.

Merichka's Restaurant

Joliet police believe three men fired from the parking lot of the strip mall on the Joliet side of Theodore Street. Two other men were seen in the Merichka's parking lot on the Crest Hill side.

Back at Merichka's, Zdralevich said he was in the office in the back of the restaurant at the time. He said he heard commotion outside, and then looked out the window to see two men running toward the back of Merichka's parking lot.

In the restaurant kitchen, some people initially thought the shooting had happened inside the restaurant – but this proved not to be the case, Zdralevich said.

"One of our hosts was really--she was really kind of trembling, very scared because she was one of the closer ones to the bullets coming through the restaurant. So, she was shaken up quite a bit," Zdralevich said, "and I assessed the customers in the restaurant – we had about probably 50 customers or so in the restaurant at the time. And everybody was OK; shaken up, obviously."

A family with three children had been seated at one restaurant table at the time, and Zdralevich said he saw the kids lying on the floor to ensure they weren't in the line of any gunfire.

Merichka's Restaurant

The restaurant closed for the rest of the day and evening after the shootout, Zdralevich said.

The shooters on the Joliet side fled in a light-colored sport-utility vehicle. Joliet police recovered 40 shell casings.

Meanwhile, Crest Hill police released surveillance images of the two suspected gunmen seen on their side of Theodore Street.

Crest Hill Police
Crest Hill Police
Crest Hill Police
Crest Hill Police

No one was injured in the shootout. Police late Tuesday were searching for the shooters.

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