National News

Dispatched by the Trump Administration, a Federal Agent Is Shot on the Streets of Chicago

Posted May 4, 2018 8:14 p.m. EDT
Updated May 4, 2018 8:23 p.m. EDT

CHICAGO — For years, President Donald Trump railed against “carnage” in Chicago, bemoaning the gun violence that had torn through many neighborhoods throughout the city. In June 2017, his administration sent more federal agents to the city as part of an anti-gang task force with the Chicago Police Department, charged with ramping up gun-enforcement efforts.

“Crime and killings in Chicago have reached such epidemic proportions that I am sending in Federal help,” Trump tweeted at the time.

Early Friday, a federal agent in that task force was shot in the face and critically wounded during an investigation in what is regarded as a dangerous pocket of Chicago’s Southwest Side, the authorities said. The shooting set off a sprawling manhunt.

The ATF agent is expected to survive; no arrests have been made in the shooting.

The incident was a significant blow to the task force, known as the Chicago Crime Gun Strike Force, a permanent unit that officials have described as the first of its kind in the country.

The task force combined Chicago police officers with agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, prosecutors and the Illinois State Police. Last June, the group included about 20 federal agents and 20 police officers; it has since expanded to include about 30 federal agents and 30 police officers, plus members of the state police, an official said.

Local officials have credited the task force with helping to lower violent crime in the city, a goal that Trump has paired with exasperated rants condemning what he sees as inaction from Chicago leaders on the issue. So far this year, Chicago has seen a 22 percent reduction in killings and a 26 percent reduction in shootings compared to the same period in 2017, according to Chicago Police Department statistics.

The unit works out of a shared building, developing criminal investigations against gun traffickers and gun offenders and examining guns coming into Chicago from other states that tend to have looser laws on firearms ownership than Illinois.

There is no question that the task force “has had an impact on why Chicago violence has been reducing,” said Anthony Guglielmi, a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department.

“They’re certainly a major player in our efforts to reduce violence here,” he said.

Police officials launched an aggressive response to the shooting of the ATF agent. Several hundred police officers in Chicago were dispatched to the scene, and police warned neighborhood residents that they should expect a large law enforcement presence. Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson of the Chicago Police vowed that the department would root out those responsible.

“My message to those responsible is simply this: We will find you,” Johnson said at a news conference Friday. “We will knock on every door, talk to every witness, watch every piece of video and analyze every piece of evidence. Believe me, you will not get away with this.”

The incident unfolded in the middle of the night in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, an area southwest of downtown that once bustled with livestock yards and meatpacking facilities, the setting for Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle.” These days, it is rife with gang activity and violence.

Members of the ATF and officers in the Chicago Police Department were working together on an operation when the agent was shot from a distance at about 3:20 a.m. local time, the police said.

Officials did not identify the type of weapon that was used but said they did not believe it was an assault-style rifle, the type of weapon that gangs in the area frequently use.

Several law enforcement officers have been shot in the same area in recent months.

The agent was taken to John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital with serious injuries, the police said. Celinez Nunez, the special agent in charge of the ATF’s field division in Chicago, said Friday morning that the agent was in stable condition.

At a news conference, she asked for help from the community. “I implore everybody today to help us bring the assailants who are responsible for this to justice,” she said. “We can’t do this alone as law enforcement.”

No other officer was shot, but a police officer was taken to a hospital for observation, the police said.