A woman at the Evanston Public Library’s main branch on Orrington Avenue took out a knife during an argument with a man Tuesday afternoon, an Evanston police spokesperson said.

The two people involved in the incident are not related, so the situation was not a domestic dispute, according to EPD spokesperson Ryan Glew, who added that police did not know if the two knew each other before the fight at the library.

Jenette Sturges, the library’s marketing and communications manager, told the RoundTable on Tuesday afternoon that a safety monitor heard a raised voice in the second floor book stacks. That safety officer “found a man and woman, and the woman appeared to be hitting the man in the face and throwing books at him,” Sturges said.

“In an attempt to de-escalate the situation, our safety monitor encouraged the man to move away from the woman,” Sturges said in a statement. “The woman then produced a knife and threatened the man and the safety monitor with it. Our safety monitor tried to move the man out of the way and told him to leave the area, and called 911.”

EPD vehicles crowd the entrance to the main branch of the Evanston Public Library on the afternoon of May 2. Credit: Joerg Metzner

EPD officers arrested the woman shortly after arriving on the scene “without further incident,” Glew said.

Both people were in the library as regular patrons Tuesday afternoon, according to Sturges.

The woman could face a charge of aggravated assault, pending a final determination by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.

The entire situation was “resolved relatively quickly” and only lasted a few minutes, Glew and Sturges said. No one was injured, the library did not have to be evacuated and no other patrons were in the immediate area where the fight occurred, according to Sturges.

A RoundTable photographer captured images of five police vehicles parked outside the library shortly after 1 p.m. Tuesday.

This latest incident occurred several months after a library security guard and off-duty police officer, Abah Antonio, broke city policy by pointing a handgun at a library patron during a verbal and physical fight Jan. 9.

Surveillance camera footage obtained by the RoundTable showed Antonio walking around the library with the gun held up as multiple bystanders moved out of the way. At times, Antonio had his finger on the trigger and only one hand on the gun, violating Evanston and Niles Police Department policies. At the time, Antonio was employed as a police officer in Niles, though he had previously worked for EPD.

After reviewing the video evidence, Niles Police Cmdr. Kelly Eckardt recommended that NPD fire Antonio because of “blatant disregard for firearm safety,” according to documents obtained by the RoundTable. Antonio resigned from the department for “personal reasons” on Feb. 1. The Evanston Public Library suspended him for one four-hour shift, which Antonio served by giving up unused vacation time.

Duncan Agnew covers Evanston public schools, affordable housing, City Hall and more for the RoundTable. He also writes long-form investigations, features and the morning email newsletter three times a...

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  1. Serious question – had there not been a knife pulled, would police have been called …. or would this have been chalked up as a successful de-escalation and everyone would have gone on their merry way? There is no reason to think that patrons beating each other with books and throwing them at one another is okay.

    Perhaps we should be asking why it is that we need to employ in a library whose job is to keep patrons safe from one another. Maybe we’re doing it wrong.

  2. It appears that this is the second time since January that a situation involving an individual in distress escalated after EPL security intervened. Will the board of directors care?

    A person is a patron if they use the library – whether or not they are housed.

  3. I realize we don’t know the full details of what exactly what happened or what was said during this altercation, but it appears this is the second incident at EPL since January which was dramatically escalated after EPL security staff intervened.

  4. “Both people were in the library as regular patrons Tuesday afternoon, according to Jenette Sturges, the library’s marketing and communications manager.”

    Regular patrons? Do you mean homeless people?

    1. Homeless people who visit the library are part of the public and part of the community. If they are using the library, they are patrons.

    2. Jillian Bass, I wondered about the use of the phrase “regular patrons”, too. And if “regular patrons” is a euphemism for unhoused people, I think it points to a problematic dynamic at EPL. While trying hard not to “other” library users by calling them “regular patrons”, the effect is to paradoxically “other” them.

      I’m relieved that no one was physically injured during this incident. And I strongly recommend that EPL continues to explore and implement crisis and de-escalation training and an overall re-examination of attitudes / cultural orientation to working with unhoused and / or mentally ill individuals as recommended by the American Library Association.

    3. Your disdain for unsheltered people appears over several other Evanston posts. I understand that it can be scary, even unpleasant to encounter other people you may fear or who are different from you but you should consider the concept of “punching up” in the future.

      1. Thanks, but I’ll “punch” in whatever direction I choose particularly when safety is involved.

        There are stores in Evanston I will not go to anymore. There are intersections where my daughter asks me to put the car’s windows up. Ever had your car spat on at Ridge and Main? Ever watched Fountain Square function as a bathroom? Ever seen a vagrant smoke weed and vomit outside Nichols Middle School? Ever had your father-in-law ask you if his granddaughter is safe where she lives?

        My disdain for your “homeless” – better described by me as drug addicts, drunks, mentally ill, and grifters – is eclipsed only by my disdain for our mayor and council that seems intent on making the problem worse.

        In Evanston if a neighbor/friend is facing a homeless crisis I’ll be quick to help. But this population of addicts and grifters are taking advantage of our generosity. They don’t want our help. How do I know? Because I see the same faces every year – just like last year, the year before, and the year before that.

        We are not solving this problem. We are perpetuating it. Why? Maybe because Connections for the Homeless profits off these “homeless.” Why kill the golden goose? Afterall, the Northshore homeless industrial complex is a profitable one.

        Betty Bogg’s not-for-profit banked nearly $1.2 million in net profit in 2020. I’ve seen its Form 990. She herself took in more than $147k in 2020 and her top two lieutenants split $250k. Overall, Connections spends more than 40% of its cash on salaries and administration. A number that is markedly above where it should be.

        Where are 2021’s filings/numbers you might ask? We should have gotten them no later than November 2022. Strange isn’t it?

        Evanston is being played for the fool.

      2. Are homeless people not patrons? “Patrons” aren’t limited to people who have a place to live.

        I was glad to hear that EPL is in the process of choosing a candidate to hire as a full-time social worker. That is an important and necessary step, and it sounds like the EPL board has been thoughtful and intentional about what they want this position’s role to be in serving EPL patrons. But I agree with Maria that EPL needs to go beyond the hiring of a social worker and continue their efforts to provide social services and support to patrons who most need it. I hope they show us their commitment to this.

        1. I work out of an office at Evanston Public Library. Because of the increasing number of homeless here, I do not feel safe – I am always having to “look over my shoulder” for any “disruptive behaviors”. This is a public facility, and of course all are welcome, but some choose to engage in dangerous behaviors – the latest being this knife incident. Will the next incident involve, say, a gun, and will someone be hurt or even killed?

          Several directors from our main office visited the other day. One was approached by a mentally ill library patron in the parking garage, and she was frightened out of her wits – as a result she will no longer visit our office; she said, “I thought Evanston was nice!” I know a number of families with children that will no longer visit because of their negative experiences with vagrants here – a shame, because the EPL has an outstanding children’s section…

          I concur with Ms. Bass above – our safety concerns are very, very real. I used to enjoy Fountain Square and the Merrick Rose Garden, but I’m tired of being hassled by vagrants, so no more! EPL needs to step up their safety protocols. Hiring a social worker, as they just did, simply won’t cut it. We need a uniformed and visibly – armed EPD officer here at all times…

          We are slouching our way to becoming another Portland or San Francisco – and it can happen faster than you think. Just so everyone knows, I am a survivor of homelessness, and have worked and volunteered extensively to assist our deserving homeless citizens. But practically speaking, I’m weary of having my personal safety being threatened by vagrants – and then called “mean” when I call out that bad behavior…

          Gregory Morrow

          1. What exactly do you mean you “work out of an office at EPL?” Do you mean you reserve a study room every day? Or do you work at an open table on the second or third floor? You say this all the time and it doesn’t square with how a public library typically operates – does EPL rent an office to you?