Random attacks cause concern in Chicago
Mob attacks create a sensitive issue for city officials eager to boost tourism and convention business
Portrait of Krzysztof Wilkowski outside his home in a Northwest suburb of Chicago on Monday. Wilkowski was one of the men mugged by a mob of teens this weekend near the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. (Stacey Wescott, Chicago Tribune / June 6, 2011)
By Jason Meisner and Jeremy Gorner, Tribune reporters
10:26 p.m. CDT, June 6, 2011
No one was seriously hurt in the flurry of five random attacks by a mob of young men on Chicago's lakefront over the weekend.
But the feeling among many visitors and residents that the popular Near North Side stretch where the attacks occurred is safe for strolling on a summer night may have taken a hit.
Garry McCarthy "I think it reflects badly on Chicago," said Dr. Jack Singer, 68, a Seattle oncologist who was one of two victims in town for a convention of cancer specialists at McCormick Place. "I've been coming to the convention every year, and this is the first time I've felt threatened downtown."
The outbreak of random violence along a busy stretch of Chicago Avenue and the lakefront creates a sensitive issue for city officials eager to boost tourism and convention business.
"No matter what, we have to remember this isn't just about downtown residents, but our tourism economy," said Ald. Brendan Reilly, whose 42nd Ward encompasses most of the downtown business district. "Perception is reality in tourism world. There are economic consequences if people think downtown isn't safe."
Reilly said Monday that police need more resources to deal with the influx of "hundreds of thousands" of people flooding downtown and the beaches on weekends.
Five youths were charged Monday in the crimes, and acting police Superintendent Garry McCarthy praised the department's response. He said there is no need for people to be afraid to walk around downtown.
"I think our reaction to it has been quick, it's been swift and it's been very effective," McCarthy said outside his confirmation hearing at City Hall.
The attacks occurred around 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Moments after a group of teens wrestled with Singer over his iPad and BlackBerry, members of the same mob attacked a 42-year-old doctor visiting from Japan. That doctor was beaten and robbed of his iPod Touch while walking in the 700 block of North Lake Shore Drive, authorities said.
"He looked like he had no idea what had happened," Singer said of the Japanese doctor, who rode with him in a squad car while helping police search for the assailants.
Both physicians were in town for the annual convention of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, which entered into a 10-year deal with McCormick Place in 2010. The five-day event typically brings in more than 30,000 doctors, vendors and other specialists from around the world.
Police sources said they have been aware of large groups of teens causing trouble along North Michigan Avenue for at least the last year. One source said the fear is the attacks could become more frequent as the weather gets warmer.
While there have been reports nationwide of shoplifting and other crimes carried out by "flash mobs" coordinating their efforts through text messaging, the attacks Saturday did not appear to be coordinated by any social media, police said.
On Monday, two 16-year-old boys were ordered held in custody on juvenile charges of attempted armed robbery and aggravated battery.
Three other teens were charged with robbery as adults: Dvonte Sykes, 17, of the 7500 block of South Normal Avenue; Trovolus Pickett, 17, of the 8400 block of South Dorchester Avenue; and Derod'te Wright, 18, of the 3500 block of South State Street. They remained in custody Monday night in lieu of bonds ranging from $200,000 to $300,000.
None of the defendants has any adult arrests, according to prosecutors.
The first victim, insurance salesman Krzysztof Wilkowski, 34, said he was sitting on his motor scooter checking his cellphone around 8:30 p.m. when he was hit in the head with a baseball, which knocked his helmet off.
"The next thing I know is I'm being hit by the helmet, then being dragged into the street," Wilkowski said. "I couldn't believe it. It was broad daylight outside, there were people around, and this happened."
Moments later, Singer, who was sitting on a park bench smoking a cigar and typing an email, was attacked by members of the same group. The teens then ran east to Lake Shore Drive, where they allegedly attacked the doctor from Japan and two other people along the bike path just south of Chicago Avenue.
Ryan Dacumos, 20, of the Lakeview neighborhood, said he was riding his mountain bike when the mob approached him and one of them grabbed the headphones to his iPad.
"They were asking for my wallet," Dacumos said. "After I gave it, they punched me in my mouth and in my left ear. I started to run away so fast because I scared."
Tribune reporter Kristen Mack and WGN-TV reporter Pat Curry contributed.[email protected][email protected]
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