The White Sox Aug. 25 game against the Oakland A’s should have been stopped completely— or at the very least delayed — after two women were struck by bullets near Section 161 of Guaranteed Rate Field, Chicago’s interim police superintendent said Thursday.
Interim Chicago Police Supt. Fred Waller told the Sun-Times the game was allowed to continue without interruption due to “miscommunication” on the protocol for notifying Major League Baseball. That issue has been addressed and won’t happen again, he said.
“We did not know exactly what we had on our hands. We didn’t think it was an active shooter. But we didn’t know,” Waller said in an interview Thursday.
Waller was overseeing street operations citywide when he learned of the stadium shooting. He was told Chief of Patrol Brian McDermott had called for the game to be stopped and that police, team officials and the private security firm hired by the Sox had started looking at video.
“In the communication of phone calls back and forth, the game is continuing on. … A mistake was made because the games was not stopped. … In communication of, ‘Stop the game,’ the White Sox went into a mode of, ‘Now, we have to contact Major League Baseball’ and things like that, and that should not have happened,” Waller said.
“We’ve taken some steps to make sure that … we have the right people in place to delay or stop completely a game like that, so it won’t happen again.”
Pressed to pinpoint who dropped the ball, potentially endangering the crowd of 20,000-plus, Waller fell on his sword.
“I’m over the police department at this time as interim superintendent. If you want to place blame, you can give the blame to myself. … Put it on me. I’ll take that,” Waller said.
“When I look myself in the mirror, I probably would have given that directive, no matter what.”
One month after the shooting left a 42-year-old woman wounded in her right leg and a 26-year-old woman grazed on her abdomen, Waller said Chicago police still don’t know if the bullets came from inside or outside the stadium and likely will never be 100% sure.
Both women have been interviewed, but no suspects have been questioned or identified, even though the police department brought in the feds to “to kind of give us a hand in this,” said Waller.
“We’re still using technology to show us if it could have happened from outside the park. … We’re looking at cameras from inside the park to make sure that we’re not missing something,” Waller said.
White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf has emphatically stated he doesn’t see “any way in the world that the shots could have come from inside the ballpark.”
Waller said: “I won’t say inside or outside until the investigation is complete. I spoke to Mr. Reinsdorf, and I know that he feels very strongly because he has to protect his brand.”
Task force formed to tackle North Side robbery sprees
Of his five-month tenure as top cop, Waller said it’s been a “pleasant surprise how well we’ve done, numbers-wise” with a decline in homicides and shootings, having “welcomed street intervention teams into the police department.”
But robberies are up dramatically in affluent North Side neighborhoods once nearly immune to such crime.
The Shakespeare Police District (14th), which includes Wicker Park, Bucktown and parts of Logan Square, has a 53% jump in robberies compared to last year and a 93% increase from 2021, according to city data.
Robberies are also up 13% this year in the Near North District (18th), which includes a large portion of Lincoln Park, data shows. That number jumps to 34% when compared to 2021.
In the Town Hall District (19th), which includes Lake View, robberies remain at the same level as last year, the data shows. But those 291 robberies mark a 54% increase from the same point in 2021.
Waller said the police department has formed a task force using helicopters and other covert technology to “move the needle on these robberies.”
But robbery crews and copycats who “zigzag back and forth across the city” in stolen cars are “coming from more challenging places” to target “unsuspecting,” somewhat oblivious people viewed as “easy prey,” Waller said.
“There’s always strength in numbers. … The more people that you walk with — the more people that you gather with — most of the time, you’re not gonna be a victim,” he said.
“If you see a car circulating a couple of times, that’s a signal that, maybe you should take some caution. Maybe, go into a place, a restaurant or go back to where you just came from if you can. … If you see someone staring suspiciously, that’s another alert. … Don’t allow yourself to just get victimized in that way,” he cautioned.
Snelling ‘right person’ to lead department, Waller says
Waller is about to leave the job he once dreamed of holding, after a high-level shake-up he claims has been in the works for some time and will “help move the department forward.”
Counterterrorism Chief Larry Snelling, Mayor Brandon Johnson’s choice for permanent superintendent, is poised to be confirmed, first by the City Council’s Police Committee, which meets Friday, and by the full City Council on Wednesday.
Waller said he didn’t apply for the permanent superintendent job because it was “time for new ideas and fresh faces to lead” the Chicago Police Department.
He said he’ll miss the job, but is “more than confident” that Snelling is the “right person” and will “do great things for this department.”
Contributing: Tom Schuba