Update: The Evanston Police Department has offered an update on this case on Monday, March 20. Read that story here.
The Evanston Police Department said in a news release Friday evening that the area around the 900 block of Michigan Avenue “is secure following an earlier incident involving an emotionally disturbed individual,” though a police spokesman confirmed that officers have not located the person.
The incident had caused Evanston schools citywide to be placed on soft lockdowns for hours.
Officers from the Northern Illinois Police Alarm System (NIPAS), a network of suburban police forces around Chicago that responds to emergency situations, entered the apartment where they thought the individual was barricaded late Friday afternoon after nearly six hours of heavy police presence without an update, according to EPD’s announcement.
“The individual was not present, and the area is now secure,” EPD said. “Roads are being reopened as police clear the scene. A smaller police presence will remain as the investigation continues.”
Police had initially responded to the area after reports of a battery around 11 a.m. Friday morning, according to EPD’s news release, but “the initial investigation indicated that the individual involved may have fled the scene prior to officers’ arrival, or may have returned to a unit inside the building.” It remained unclear late Friday if the person was ever in the apartment that officers ultimately searched.
Commander Ryan Glew, the EPD spokesman, told the RoundTable late Friday night that “the emotionally disturbed person has not been located” and that the alleged battery had involved the suspect and one of their family members.
“There were no shots fired as part of this incident,” according to the police news release. “However, the presence of firearms inside the home and the assessed emotional state of the individual prompted the Evanston Police Department to issue a soft lockdown for Lincoln Elementary School, which is in the immediate vicinity, as a precautionary measure to ensure safety.”
During a soft lockdown, classes continue as usual but no one may enter or exit the school building.
Around noon, police expanded the lockdown recommendation, eventually “to include all Evanston K-12 schools and daycares after the police investigation indicated the individual may have entered the downtown area,” the EPD release said.
The city and police department decided against a shelter-in-place order for the neighborhood “based on evaluation of known facts,” although the person of interest’s “whereabouts are under investigation,” according to Glew.
A description of the individual is “not to be released yet pending legal process and further evaluation,” Glew told the RoundTable.
The school lockdowns lasted for several hours but were ultimately lifted in the afternoon.
A 2:41 p.m. Tweet from EPD disclosed a few details about the incident: “Heavy police presence for an emotionally disturbed subject suspected to be barricaded in an apartment building in the area of Michigan & Main. Trilogy Behavioral Health & local law enforcement partners are on scene.”
Just after 6:30 p.m. Friday, after six hours of uncertainty, EPD tweeted that the area around the corner of Main Street and Michigan Avenue was “secure” and that most police personnel would be leaving the area, except for a few vehicles and staffers still investigating on the scene.
Resident Mary Jon Girard, who works in an art studio in the basement of a building at 999 Michigan Ave. on the corner of Michigan and Lee Street, told the RoundTable Friday afternoon that she saw five police vehicles and officers carrying long guns outside the building around 12:30 p.m.
One officer was inside the building itself and allowed Girard to leave and drive her car home at the time, she said.
“The building I was in was totally the focus. It had to be. There was just too much activity,” she said. “I would describe the activity as very in control, very calm and at the stage of figuring it out. That’s what it felt like to me. This is all just the sense I had, that it was OK to leave the building, that they [police] were in charge.”
Units from several suburbs come to Evanston’s aid
The person involved in the alleged battery was in “an emotional state,” according to the police news release. Glew said that evaluation combined with the individual’s access to firearms led to the significant police response.
People across Evanston reported to the RoundTable that they had heard multiple police sirens and witnessed heavy law enforcement activity near Lee Street at the lakefront. Some said they saw dozens of uniformed and plainclothes officers in tactical gear and carrying assault rifles.
At 2:36 p.m., District 65 and EPD announced that the soft lockdowns would be lifted at all local schools, including ETHS, except Lincoln, Park, Nichols and Chiaravalle, which are in the area immediately surrounding police activity on this case.
At around 3:30 p.m., EPD announced on Twitter that it had sent officers to those four remaining schools to assist in dismissing students, who left their buildings by about 3:45 p.m.
Did they remove the weapons? Otherwise we still have an “emotionally disturbed” person with access to a lot of weapons.
I hope more information will come out that may help us understand whether a district-65-wide lockdown was necessary, and perhaps adjust the policy.
I’m sympathetic to those who had to make a decision. But in retrospect it looks like we had a fairly low-level crime, domestic in nature, and someone who was upset and had “access to weapons.” Was there any evidence he was armed or expressed aggression towards anyone outside his family? If not, I don’t think kids citywide should be kept from normal outdoor recess.
But as I said, I’m sympathetic to those who had to make a decision. I’m not pointing fingers. I just suspect the policy could be modulated.
Ryan captured my questions well! This article provided more context that helped to understand the decision, but without knowing more, the threat seemed relatively remote for all of Evanston’s kids to be on lock down and for some schools to delay allowing pick up.
Schools were just given the all clear per a text I got from The Academy at St Joan of Arc.