Paul Bauer, a 31-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department and commander of the Near North District died of multiple gunshot wounds after he was attacked outside Chicago’s iconic downtown Thompson Center Tuesday.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago police officers attempted a street stop of a man, later found to be armed and wearing body armor under his long black coat, on the Chicago riverfront, three blocks from the eventual shooting. The man ran from the “Central District tactical officers” who gave chase. Commander Bauer, who was in uniform and had just completed a training exercise nearby, intervened to try and stop the man, who reportedly opened fire.
A witness told the Chicago Tribune she heard around five shots. Bauer was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital where he pronounced dead shortly after 2 p.m.
The Sun-Times reported the suspect, a 44-year old South-Sider, has a felony arrest record dating back to 1998. He was charged with armed robbery in 1998, “being a felon in possession of body armor, possession of a defaced firearm and possession of heroin” in 2007, “resisting an officer and battery” in 2011, and drug possession in 2014. The Chicago Tribune reports four total felony convictions, including a 16-year sentence for the 1998 robbery.
The suspect is in custody awaiting charges. Both papers are declining to identify the man until charges are formally lodged.
The 53-year old Bauer became one of 22 of the department’s district commanders in 2016. He hailed from the South Side’s Bridgeport neighborhood, known for more than a century for its concentration of Chicago policemen and firefighters, where, according to the Tribune, he was known “as a considerate family man who attended services at the Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church.”
He is survived by his wife and 13-year-old daughter.
Bauer was the first Chicago police officer shot dead since 2011 and one of 379 since the department’s founding in 1855. No officer as high ranking as him has been killed since 1981 when Chicago’s number two cop was murdered in a downtown bar.
Commander Bauer was known for advocacy for tougher sentences and harsher policing tactics against career criminals like the man now held for his slaying.
In a November 2017 River North Residents Association meeting, he complained of low bails and barriers to prosecution. “This is how I look at it, I want them off the street,” he told residents. “We’re not talking about the guy that stole a loaf of bread from the store to feed his family. We’re talking about career robbers, burglars, drug dealers. These are all crimes against the community. They need to be off the street.”
In the same meeting, Bauer attacked long-time Democratic Sheriff Tom Dart for his efforts to reduce inmate numbers. “The Sheriff of Cook County, for whatever reason, is very proud of the fact he has reduced the population of the county jail. Maybe I’m jaded, I don’t think that’s anything to be proud of,” he said.
Less than three months after those comments, Bauer is dead, allegedly from a repeat offender’s bullets.
Chicago’s continuing battle with criminal violence is illustrated by the fact he was not the only shooting victim in the long-suffering city on Tuesday. Five civilians were also shot the same day. All are recovering in city hospitals.