4 dead including gunman at West Loop office building
December 8, 2006 (Last Updated: 10:43 p.m.) (WLS) -- Shootings at a downtown Chicago office building ended with four people dead Friday afternoon, including the gunman. Police shot him while he was holding a hostage. The shootings happened in the CitiGroup Center above the Ogilvie Transportation Center, 500 W. Madison. Thousands of commuters were stranded after Metra train service was shut down.
This was a planned assault carried out by an unidentified gunman who Friday afternoon invaded the law offices of Wood and Phillips, a firm that specializes in patent rights and intellectual property law. Why he would shoot and kill three people and threaten other lives is not clear at this point. But police did say earlier, and they didn't go into detail, that there had been "previous encounters" with a member of the firm.
It began at 3:15 in the afternoon. A lone gunman entered the Ogilvie Transportation Center lobby and took an elevator to a law office on the 38th floor. Police say he carried with him a large manila envelope that inside contained a snub-nosed revolver, a knife and a hammer. As soon as he entered the office, he demanded to see one of the lawyers.
"The offender then displayed a handgun and chained the door with a padlock and a chain he had brought with him. He then began shooting. He grabbed a hostage -- and he was pointing the gun alternately at the hostage's head and his own head," said Supt. Phil Cline, Chicago Police.
Before grabbing the hostage, the unidentified gunman had already fatally shot three people in the office -- all men -- including the particular lawyer he had demanded to see. He also shot a female employee in the foot.
First District and SWAT team officers arrived on the floor. And as the gunman stood in an entry way holding his hostage and moving his gun about, a sniper-equipped SWAT officer found himself with a brief, but clear shot 25 yards down a hallway, and he took it. The gunman's wound was fatal. The hostage is OK.
While all of this was happening, office workers on the 38th and other floors were told to lock themselves in their offices. People on lower floors were evacuated and no one was allowed in the busy passenger terminal.
"They told us to stay in our offices, and then, after that the police came and evacuated us. We walked down the 38 floors and left," said Susan Lurch, works on 38th floor.
"Pretty excited, pretty scary. When it happens that fast, you really don't have a lot of time to think. You just do," said Mike Boland, working in building.
Roughly 45 minutes after it began, it was over. Police say the gunman had had previous encounters with individuals in the 38th floor law office. They would not immediately characterize what they were about. They do say that responding officers kept a tragic situation from becoming even worse.
"There was at least another 25-30 people on the floor and I think the Chicago police officers from SWAT saved those lives," said Cline.
There is for all visitors of this office tower a security check point where you must provide ID and get clearance to go to any of the upper floors. Police said when the gunman arrived at that security checkpoint, he pulled out his gun and forced the guard to accompany him to the 38th floor.
That guard is being extensively questioned. There is clearly a lot more leg work to be done in this investigation.
Two of the people killed by the gunman were taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital before they died.
Hospital officials are not releasing much information about the victims. We do know that the two victims taken to Northwest Memorial Hospital were both male. They were rush there Friday afternoon and a hospital spokesman said they were pronounced dead shortly after arriving at the hospital. Another male victim who was killed was taken to Stroger Hospital.
The lone survivor, a woman, was taken from the scene so Rush University Medical Center
There are a total of four victims, not including the gunman. Three of the victims died, all men, two of which who were brought to Northwestern Memorial.
The ages of two of the men are 65 and 58. We do not have the age of the third man who was killed. Police are not releasing the names, pending family notification.
As for the survivor, she is a 57-year-old woman. She was still in Rush University Medical Center Friday night. Members of her family said that she had shattered bones in her foot. She underwent surgery and is expected to make a full recovery.
As for the shooter, police have not released his name. Police say he was a male in his 60's. He was shot and killed by police and he died at the scene.
Metra service was suspended for more than an hour because of the shootings. That was enough to make the Friday night commute a long and frustrating one. Service resumed just after 5 p.m.
The Union Pacific lines that originate from the Ogilvie Transportation Center carry about 50,000 commuters every day to the north and northwest. Many of those commuters were delayed Friday night for several hours. In this case there was absolutely nothing Metra could do about it.
The sound of the train arriving at the station was a welcome one for commuters Friday night. For nearly two hours the station was quiet as police evacuated much of the building that houses the Ogilvie Station. Police wanted to make sure everyone was safe in the midst of gunfire on an upper floor.
But many commuters were simply frustrated.
"Tonight was my night to get home early. I will still be getting home late," said Deborah Douglas, commuter.
"It's Friday night. It's not that bad. But I'd like to get home -- had a long day," said Vladimir Bajac, commuter.
"It's a big hassle, of course, but all these other people have the same hassles," said Mary Sircar, commuter.
With police officers stopping people from entering the building, many commuters had no way to get information on how to get home.
"I wish somebody from Metra was here to explain what is happening and how we're supposed to be getting home tonight. It would be helpful. There is nobody here except police officers. And they have their hands full," said Mike Hlavacek, commuter.
"I don't know if they're going to open the building or not. I don't want to be stranded all night here," said Diana Vecera, commuter.
Eventually, the trains did start running again -- but forget about the schedules. You got wherever you were going Friday night whenever you got there.
"It's just a load and go, and it will stop at all stops. We'll get you there as soon as we can possibly get you there. That was about the best we could hope for tonight," said Judy Pardonnet, Metra spokesperson.
Metra has actually recovered pretty well. The outbound trains were running on some semblance of a schedule Friday night. The inbound trains are another story. They were running on an as available basis. Metra says they expect this all should be cleared up Friday night and by Saturday all the trains should be back on schedule.
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