Multiple People Charged In Recent Chicago Looting Had No Prior Criminal Record

Cook County prosecutors say so far 42 people have been charged with felonies in connection with recent looting downtown. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Cook County prosecutors say so far 42 people have been charged with felonies in connection with recent looting downtown. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Multiple People Charged In Recent Chicago Looting Had No Prior Criminal Record

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Twenty five-year-old Steven Yates was arrested for the first time in his life early Monday morning.

Prosecutors say the full time college student, who lives in suburban Riverdale, was inside a jewelry store at about 4:15 a.m., handing stolen merchandise through a broken window to people out on the sidewalk, when a police commander and lieutenant pulled up.

Yates “appeared to be confused” at the sight of police, according to prosecutors, and then tried to run out the back of the store. He ran into another group of officers, turned around and ended up barreling into Chicago Police Commander Jill Stevens and slamming her to the ground, prosecutors said during a bail hearing on Wednesday.

Yates, who is pursuing a degree in software engineering, according to his attorney, is facing felony charges of burglary, looting and aggravated battery to a police officer.

Prosecutors said that after he was arrested, Yates told police he learned from Facebook that people were going downtown and decided to join in. Yates allegedly told police he doesn’t “normally do stuff like this,” and that he did not mean to run into the commander.

Prosecutors confirmed it was Yates’ first arrest.

Yates was one of more than a hundred people arrested in connection with looting and mayhem on Sunday night and Monday morning, according to Chicago police.

Some of those people are facing felonies, others less serious misdemeanor charges and still others are accused of violating city ordinances.

In an effort to better understand the criminal cases, WBEZ monitored some of the bond hearings of people charged in connection with the looting. WBEZ observed 17 such virtual bond hearings. Every person charged with a felony was required to pay some money to get out of jail, with the amounts owed ranging from $200 to $2,500. None of the misdemeanor defendants observed were required to pay a bond.

At a news conference Monday, Chicago leaders implored county judges and prosecutors to make sure those arrested were “held accountable.”

“You need to step up and be responsible. We can’t continue to allow [looting] to happen,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.

During the bond hearings this week, Cook County Judge Mary Marubio repeatedly referenced the damage to the city caused by the overnight looting, which police said was sparked by a police shooting on Sunday afternoon.

“The factors I’m considering [when setting bond], and I’ll be repeating this all day like I did yesterday, [are] that this looting and burglarizing that was going on Aug. 10 unsettled the city, damaged the community and diverted police resources unnecessarily to a high volume of criminal activity,” Marubio said from the bench on Wednesday.

Ultimately, Marubio gave Yates a $10,000 bond, of which Yates would have to pay 10% by law in order to be released from jail while he awaits trial. Yates’ attorney said he believed his client would be able to post bail.

Yates was one of multiple people arrested during the looting with no prior criminal record.

Of the virtual bond hearings observed by WBEZ, more than half of the defendants had no felony convictions on their records, according to statements made by defense attorneys and prosecutors.

A spokeswoman for Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said as of Thursday afternoon, 42 people had been charged with felonies in connection to the mayhem that stretched from Sunday night to early Monday morning.

The majority of those cases are for burglary or looting. There are also a handful of people charged with resisting arrest or aggravated battery of a police officer. Six people have been charged with illegal gun possession, and there is one case of attempted murder.

WBEZ has requested a list of all cases brought so far, and documentation, from prosecutors and police. So far those requests have not been fulfilled.

The vast majority of the felony defendants who WBEZ has been able to identify so far live in Chicago, according to authorities.

The felony bond hearings observed by WBEZ give a glimpse into the chaos, and some insight into the nature of the cases being brought.

One man who was arrested on the Magnificent Mile was seen exiting a Louis Vuitton store downtown by way of a broken window, carrying clothing, boxes and a suitcase, according to prosecutors. The man allegedly dropped the merchandise and ran when he saw police. Officers said they caught him, but when they went back to the front of the store, the alleged stolen items were gone.

In handing down a $25,000 bond, Marubio said it was irrelevant that the items, which would have been evidence in the case, may have been “absconded with by someone else.” And she said she did not consider the burglary a nonviolent crime, because it was connected to the looting.

A woman was allegedly found with thousands of dollars worth of stolen goods layed out in the grass about seven miles away from where most of the looting took place and about five hours after the looting had happened.

The woman allegedly told officers she was stuck in traffic downtown when she saw people looting a Binny’s and decided to go in and take 32 bottles of liquor. She also allegedly had stolen goods from Nordstrom’s. However, she said she never went into the store and had simply been given the items by other people, because she wants to start a beauty supply store, according to prosecutors.

Another man was charged with three counts of aggravated resisting arrest. Prosecutors said he repeatedly flailed his arms and shoved officers to get away. The struggle eventually spilled out onto the street, where an officer was hit by a car, according to prosecutors.

The alleged confrontation started, prosecutors said, when the man was seen by police trying to break a window at a watch store. When police pulled up, the man told officers, “We are taking what we want, and if you come over I will beat your motherf***ing a**,” according to prosecutors.

Patrick Smith is a reporter on WBEZ’s Criminal Justice Desk. Follow him @pksmid. Email him at