CHICAGO — A high-ranking Chicago police officer was shot to death Tuesday afternoon at the Thompson Center administrative building downtown while assisting a tactical team that was chasing a suspect, police said.
Commander Paul Bauer of the Near North District was shot several times a little before 2 p.m., according to Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson. He said a suspect was taken into custody and a gun recovered.
“It’s a difficult day for us, but we’ll get through it,” Johnson told reporters outside Northwestern Hospital, where Bauer had been taken.
Bauer, 53, joined the department in 1986 and worked all across the city over his career — from the South Side to the specialized mounted patrol unit to his current position as commander of the busy and high-profile Near North District.
Bauer was shot after a suspect started running from tactical officers who had attempted to stop him for questioning, Johnson said. They radioed a description that the commander heard, he said. Bauer, at the Thompson Center for a training session, confronted the suspect, who opened fire.
Police radio traffic caught the moments before the shooting, including a warning from one of the pursuing officers: “Don’t anybody get hurt. We just wanted to do a street stop on him.”
At the beginning of the chase, an officer is heard saying over the radio that he had tried to stop the suspect but he took off running. “He took off, he was running from me, we just had a shooting the other day,” the officer radioed.
He described the suspect as wearing a long black coat with a fur collar and last seen running south on Dearborn Street. Within a minute, another officer said he saw the man. He told a dispatcher he was near Clark and Lake streets, “State of Illinois building towards City Hall.”
It was the last thing heard from the officer. The dispatcher asked, repeatedly, over the course of more than three minutes for the officer to come back on the air. There was no response.
The first officer came back on the air and said, “Don’t anybody get hurt. We just wanted to do a street stop on him and he took off on me. But he was in the area where we’ve had a lot of narcotics sales and a shooting on Saturday.”
The dispatcher replied, “I understand, but somebody else is following him and we want to make sure we get him help.”
A different officer came on the air and said they found the suspect and had him in handcuffs. They said the suspect had a gun on him.
The original officer came back on the air reporting a person had been shot. “We have a person shot in the stairwell. Possibly related to the guy we were chasing at the State of Illinois building.”
The dispatcher said, “OK, is that an off-duty PO (police officer)?”
“There’s a radio laying (sic) next to him. … Squad, I need somebody over here ASAP. It is.”
Dispatcher: “We have a 10-1, we have an off-duty shot. We have units on the scene.”
Noreen Janko said she was walking back to her office building across the street from the Thompson Center when she heard shots.
“I heard the gunshots go off, about five shots, and then the stairs there to the pedway, I think they have the guy cornered because they lock those doors down there,” Janko said. “So they took him with shackles and then they put him in the squad. Then the ambulance came, about five minutes (later) they brought out a guy who was shot. He was on the stretcher, there was blood and they were doing (CPR).
“I was walking down the street and I heard ‘pop-pop-pop-pop-pop,’ ” Janko said. “And I said to the girl next to me, ‘Is that what I think it is?’ And she said ‘Yep.’ … And everybody is scurrying all over …
“Anyway, so they had him cornered and eventually they brought him up the stairs and put him in the squad,” Janko said.
During his tenure in the Near North District, Bauer spoke publicly about trying to rebuild trust in the community but also the frustration he felt about the “high bar to prosecution” when it came to career offenders.
“We’re not talking about the guy who stole a loaf of bread from the store to feed his family,” he told the Loop North News in November 2017. “We’re talking about career robbers, burglars, drug dealers. These are all crimes against the community. They need to be off the street.”
In a video posted on YouTube last year for a community news program on an independent television station, the commander spoke of his efforts in his district to connect with the community through monthly coffees.
“I know there is a perception out there that there is this wall, a lot of mistrust in the Police Department,” he said. “I have never been thanked more for my service in the last two to three years total, compared to the previous 28 years.”
As officers gathered at Northwestern, Johnson sent out an email to members of his department: “Today, our department suffered a tragedy that it is difficult to comprehend. This afternoon, a CPD commander was shot while assisting fellow officers. Information is still coming in at this time, but I wanted you to know as soon as possible. We will provide additional details as they come. Please take the time to keep his family in your thoughts and prayers. Stay safe.”
The superintendent later told reporters that he had talked to Bauer’s wife and daughter. He appealed to the city to keep the family in their prayers.
Outside the emergency room entrance, about a dozen plainclothes officers gathered in the middle of Erie Street. A number of marked and unmarked police and Chicago Fire Department vehicles, some of them with emergency lights flashing, were parked outside.
A uniformed officer hugged another officer in the middle of the street.
At the scene of the shooting, officers stretched crime tape from City Hall to the Thompson Center.
Federal agents and Illinois state police joined Chicago detectives. Onlookers crowded the corners, and people at times had to dodge falling ice. Many workers said they could not get back into the buildings.