Charges will not be filed against a man who fired a gun near pro-Palestinian protesters in the north suburbs Sunday night, according to the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.
The 39-year-old man, who prosecutors declined to name, was released from police custody. In a statement issued Monday, prosecutors said the man, a Firearm Owner Identification Card and Concealed Carry License holder, had “no criminal history.”
“After reviewing the evidence, which includes surveillance video and witness statements, we have determined the individual … acted in self-defense upon being surrounded by a crowd and attacked by some of those individuals,” according to the statement.
A crowd of approximately 200 pro-Palestinian protesters had gathered about 4 p.m. Sunday outside an event called to show solidarity with Israel at Ateres Ayala, a banquet hall in Skokie, but were kept some distance away from the property by police.
Shortly after 5:30 p.m., a smaller group of protesters moved south across Touhy Avenue after seeing the man exit his sedan and chase a woman who appeared to take an Israeli flag off his car, according to nearby camera footage.
He was surrounded by protesters, according to a chaotic video of the incident provided to the Sun-Times by a witness, then a gunshot can be heard on the video.
People scream and the crowd scatters, and the man can be seen holding the gun as someone screams, “Get him! Get him!”
Lincolnwood police confirmed the man fired a weapon into the air, and he was arrested at the scene.
Hatem Abuddayeh, the national chair of the U.S. Palestinian Community Network, said the state’s attorney’s office was “absolutely wrong” in releasing the man, who he said “endangered hundreds.”
He blamed America’s political leaders, specifically President Joe Biden and some elected officials in Illinois who have voiced support for Israel, for stoking the attacks.
“Our leaders are responsible for the attacks,” Abuddayeh said. “The state’s attorney’s office has a responsibility of keeping people safe … These are the things that put us in danger.”
He said decisions such as the one not to file charges give the Palestinian community reason to worry about its safety.
Since the Israeli-Hamas war started two weeks ago, Muslim activists in Chicago have said anti-Muslim hate is worse than after 9/11.
Two Chicago-area Muslim schools have received violent threats — causing several Muslim schools to go on lockdown — a suburban man was charged with a hate crime for threatening to shoot two Muslim men, and another suburban man allegedly told a woman, “Go back to your country.” And six-year-old Palestinian American Wadea Al-Fayoume was killed in an alleged hate crime because of his ethnicity and Muslim faith, authorities said.
“I don’t think [pro-Palestinian protesters] are gonna be dissuaded from wanting to do more and being public in their support for their people and their demands of our government,” Abuddayeh said. “But it’s a message to our community that the people in charge don’t care that we’re being attacked.”
Alison Pure-Slovin, the Midwest regional director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which organized the Israeli solidarity event, said prosecutors likely decided not to press charges because the man “didn’t feel safe.”
“He was afraid because he was accosted by other people,” Pure-Slovin said. “The United States of America guarantees free speech. You should not be accosted because of your beliefs.”
A representative for the Anti-Defamation League said antisemitic actions have increased sharply in the weeks since war broke out. A Portage Park woman had her Israeli flag replaced with a Palestinian one that read “Palestine will be free, all Jerusalem to the sea,” according to Chicago police. Another Israeli flag was vandalized in downstate Champaign, according to the ADL.