On Jan. 22, at approximately 4:34 p.m., police were dispatched to Close Knit at 1630 Orrington Ave., for an attempted armed robbery that had just occurred. The employee at the store, a 52 year-old woman, told police that a man entered the store and displayed an apparent handgun in his waistband while saying, “Open the cash register or I’ll shoot.” The woman yelled at the man to get out, and the man fled the store, said Commander Ryan Glew of the Evanston Police Department. The woman called police to report the incident and many police cars responded.

One person who observed the police response in the downtown area told the RoundTable that when the first police car arrived, a police officer got out of his car with an assault rifle, which he cocked, and then went running down Orrington Avenue with his assault rifle pointed ahead. Ultimately about a dozen police cars arrived on the scene, including at least one Northwestern University police car.

Two men in what looked like tactical gear arrived on the scene, and at least one of them had an assault rifle. All other officers appeared to have guns drawn, but with the guns pointed down, said the witness.

People leaving the Evanston Public Library were told to leave through a certain door.

Some youth were in the downtown area and were “scared.” It was “frightening,” said the witness.

Police Chief Richard Eddington told the RoundTable when a suspect with a gun is acting erratically, “You’re going to get a different response.” He said it was a strange time of day for a robbery, especially at the locations chosen where there is a high risk for a low reward. This could make one “question the mental state of the offender.”

The Chief said that police officers are trained in the use of assault rifles, and they provide a significant tactical advantage when an officer is confronted with an armed offender. He said he knows it is disconcerting when assault weapons are seen on the street, but “an officer’s fire is going to be more accurate with the shoulder mounted weapon than with a handgun.” He added the Evanston Police Department does not deploy any automatic weapons. An officer needs to pull the trigger to fire each bullet.

Chief Eddington said he did not have an opportunity to review tapes of the Police Department’s response, but will do so. If there is something that needs to be addressed, it will be done, he said.

About 10 minutes after the attempted robbery at Close Knit, police officers were dispatched to Thrift House at 920 Chicago Ave. for an armed robbery that had just occurred. The employee, a 47-year-old female, told police that a man entered the store and displayed an apparent handgun in his waistband while saying, “Give me all your money.”  The woman gave the man approximately $330, and the man fled the store, said Commander Glew.

The Commander said the investigation indicates that it is likely the same suspect was involved in both incidents. The suspect was described as a male/black, 50-60+ years old, approximately 5 feet, 8 inches tall, and of thin build, said the Commander.

At about 5 p.m., police officers stopped Dr. Gregory Hall, who said he had just left the Evanston Public Library South Branch at 900  Chicago Ave.  Police handcuffed him. Dr. Hall reportedly said he told police that the handcuffs were too tight, that he had not done anything wrong, and that police should ask the librarian if he was just there. He said police declined to do so. He was released shortly afterwards. He is now wearing a brace on his wrist with instructions to follow up with an orthopedic specialist to undergo treatment for both wrists, said his daughter in an article posted about the incident.

Chief Eddington said Dr. Hall was detained because he was in the immediate vicinity of a crime and he was extremely close to the physical description of the offender. He said from his initial assessment, the stop was appropriate. He added he will review body cam footage of the incident, and will review Dr. Hall’s statement that the handcuffs were too tight.

Evanston police officers asked the Evanston Fire Department to transport Dr. Hall to the hospital on Jan. 22 to have his wrists examined, the Chief said.

Anyone with information about the robber is asked to contact the Evanston Police Department at 847-866-5040 or utilize Text-A-Tip by texting CRIMES (274637) and enter EPDTIP in the message line, followed by the tip information. 

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...