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Chicago gang members released without charges after deadly shootout — in part because they were 'mutual combatants' who willingly fought each other

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Image source: WLS-TV video screenshot

Chicago gang members involved in a deadly shooting Friday were released from custody without charges — one of them being first-degree murder — in part because the five arrestees were "mutual combatants" and willingly fought with each other, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

What are the details?

The paper — citing an internal police report and a law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation — said the "brazen mid-morning gunfight" in the Austin neighborhood involved rival factions of the Four Corner Hustlers street gang.

Image source: WLS-TV video screenshot

The gun battle ended with one shooter dead and two suspects wounded, the Sun-Times said. It was "just like the Wild West," the source told the paper.

More from the Sun-Times:

About 10:30 a.m., two Dodge Chargers driven by members of the Body Snatchers faction of the Four Corner Hustlers drove to the 1200 block of North Mason Avenue and exchanged words with members of the gang's Jack Boys set, according to the source and the police report.

After circling the block and coming back, at least three individuals jumped out of the Chargers and began to shoot into a brick house using handguns equipped with "switches" that made the weapons fully automatic, noted the source and report. Members of the Jack Boys who were inside the home then began firing back.

Two of the Body Snatchers were left wounded, including an unidentified 32-year-old man who was later pronounced dead at a hospital, according to the report and the Cook County medical examiner's office. A 29-year-old man aligned with the Jack Boys was also struck.

While the source confirmed that more than 70 shell casings were found outside the home, that likely doesn't reflect the number of shots that were fired from inside.

The gunfight, which was caught on a police POD camera, came to a halt when a police cruiser pulled up to the block, according to the report and the source. The Body Snatchers then fled in the Chargers, leaving their fatally wounded accomplice behind.

No charges against 'mutual combatants'

The Sun-Times, citing the law enforcement source, said police wanted to charge all five suspects with murder and aggravated battery — but by Sunday morning a Chicago police spokeswoman said the suspects had "been released without charges."

Cristina Villareal, a Cook County state's attorney's office spokeswoman, said prosecutors "determined that the evidence was insufficient to meet our burden of proof to approve felony charges," the paper reported.

Villareal also said police officials agreed with the decision, the Sun-Times added.

However, the police report also said "mutual combatants was cited as the reason for the rejection" of charges, the paper noted, adding that mutual combat is a legal term used to designate a fight in which opponents willingly engage in.

Pushback from the mayor

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot pushed Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx to reverse her decision on the case, WLS-TV reported.

Image source: WLS-TV video screenshot

"If they do not feel like the criminal justice system is going to hold them accountable, we're going to see a level of brazenness that will send the city into chaos, and we cannot let that happen," Lightfoot said Monday, the station said.

The mayor — a former prosecutor — disagreed with Foxx's lack of evidence assessment, WLS noted.

Image source: WLS-TV video screenshot

"I think that there's evidence there," Lightfoot also said, according to the station. "We've got videotape, we have a marked squad of uniformed officers who were on the scene observing it. At a bare minimum, the individuals who initiated the firefight must be prosecuted."

Foxx's office responds

The Cook County State's Attorney's Office released the following statement in response to the mayor's comments, WLS said:

As a former federal prosecutor, the Mayor knows of the ethical obligation of the prosecutor to only bring forth charges where the facts, evidence, and law support it. She is also fully aware that as a prosecutor we are obligated not to try cases in the media. It is unclear why she has chosen to make such statements, especially absent the full information that was presented to our office by CPD. The detectives reached out to our office on Friday and acknowledged at the outset that given the chaotic nature at the scene they were unable to determine how the events unfolded. We reviewed the evidence that was presented to us in consultation with the detectives and they agreed we were unable to approve charges based on the evidence presented. However, as always, as additional evidence is gathered we stand ready to bring charges when appropriate. Additionally, the facts the mayor presented today simply are not in line with what was presented to us by CPD, and not born out by the evidence we received. The staggering violence that is devastating our communities is horrific, however, we must still adhere to both our ethical and legal standards in evaluating charges. As a former prosecutor, she knows that.

Anything else?

After the gun battle, one of the involved cars was "found engulfed in flames nearby," the paper said, citing the police report, and the other vehicle was used to drop off the non-fatal gunshot victim at West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park where police spotted it.

More from the Sun-Times:

During a brief chase, the 20-year-old driver crashed and he was taken into custody, according to the source and the report. An AK-47 assault rifle was found in the car, though police don't believe it was used in the shooting.

Both Chargers were likely stolen, according to the source, who said one car had a "dealer plate" and the other had no license plates at all.

Those affiliated with the Jack Boys, meanwhile, refused to leave the home on Mason, causing a standoff that required a SWAT team to respond, the source said.

Police looked to charge three Jack Boys who were eventually taken into custody, including the man who was shot, the source said. Investigators also sought charges against two members of the Body Snatchers — the driver who crashed the Charger and the 20-year-old man he took to West Suburban.

The paper said it isn't naming the suspects since they haven't been criminally charged.

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