CHICAGO (AP) — A police commander who was killed after a foot chase in downtown Chicago was shot in the head by a suspect carrying a semi-automatic handgun equipped with an extended clip of ammunition, a police official told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The official, who was briefed on the investigation, spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to provide such details until charges are filed against the suspect in the death of Cmdr. Paul Bauer. Bauer, who had been on the police force for 31 years, was shot Tuesday afternoon after spotting a man matching the radio description of an armed suspect, Chicago police have said.
The official told the AP that Bauer, 53, had identified himself as a police officer and was trying to trying to detain the suspect when they got into a physical fight and fell down a stairwell that led to a locked underground walkway.
Police spokesman Frank Giancamilli would not comment on the weapon but said the suspect was wearing a bulletproof vest under a heavy coat when he was arrested.
The Chicago Police Department has said tactical officers had detained the suspect outside the James R. Thompson Center government building when the man fled. Officers initially confronted the suspect because he was acting suspiciously, according to police Superintendent Eddie Johnson. Some initial media reports said the suspect may have been involved in the robbery of a local business, but Johnson did not provide details about what the man was doing that prompted officers to want to speak with him.
Officers had been chasing the man on foot when Bauer “saw the offender and engaged in an armed physical confrontation,” Johnson said Tuesday afternoon. Police captured the suspect a short time later, and a gun was recovered at the scene, he said.
“I just ask the citizens of this city to keep the Bauer family in their prayers,” said Johnson, who choked back tears as he spoke to reporters outside the hospital where Bauer had been pronounced dead.
It was initially reported that Bauer was off duty, but police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said on Twitter late Tuesday that Bauer was on duty. He said in an email Wednesday that it was a “chaotic scene” and Bauer had been attending training at the Chicago Fire Department with other officials before the shooting.
“There was no communication from him on the radio informing dispatch that he was in pursuit of the offender or that he was even on scene, so they initially thought it was an off-duty officer until someone recognized him,” Guglielmi wrote.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel called Bauer’s death “a tragic reminder of the dangerous duty the men and women of our police department accept to ensure the safety of us all.”
Noreen Danko was on her way to her office nearby when she heard the gunshots.
“I was walking down the street and I heard ‘pop pop pop pop pop,'” Danko told the Chicago Tribune. “And I said to the girl next to me, ‘Is that what I think it is?’ And she said, ‘Yep.’ I said, ‘Aw geez.’ And everybody is scurrying all over and I see the police head to the stairs there.”
She said she saw officers lead the shackled suspect away and put him in a squad car, then watched as emergency workers administered CPR to Bauer, who was lying on a stretcher, before he was put inside an ambulance and rushed to the hospital.
This story has been corrected to indicate that the commander was on duty, not off duty, based on updated information from police.