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Shoplifting suspect shot after dragging officer, police say

John J. Kim | MCT
John J. Kim | MCT
A detective investigates the scene of a police-involved shooting outside Kohl's department store on Weber Road in Romeoville, Ill., Nov. 28, 2013. A theft attempt by two or more suspects resulted in police action and the shooting scene outside the store.
By Adam Sege and Juan Perez Jr., Chicago Tribune

ROMEOVILLE, Ill. — Debbie Turner was leaving a Chicago area Kohl’s department store with her daughter when she saw a police officer, his shirt off and his shoulder bandaged, getting into an ambulance. Other officers were taking a man into custody.

Then she saw her car, surrounded by crime tape and not far from a black Pontiac Sunfire with a side window shot out.

Turner had been inside the Romeoville, Ill., store with her 26-year-old daughter Meghan Thursday night, getting a jump on holiday deals with a crowd of other shoppers, when a suspected shoplifter was shot by police after dragging an officer in the parking lot, authorities said.

“I didn’t hear a thing,” said Turner, of Lockport, Ill.

The crime scene caused a spectacle in the bustling parking lot but did not halt shopping at the department store. People stared and took photos before walking around the yellow tape blocking one of the store’s entrances.

The commotion began about 10 p.m. when police were alerted to a theft in progress at the store, Romeoville Police Chief Mark Turvey said. Police officers waited outside the store and soon saw two men bringing a shopping cart out of the store toward the Sunfire, police and witnesses said.

One of the suspects ran toward the Sunfire, police said. An officer caught up with him but the suspect “closed the car door on the officer’s arm, not allowing the officer to disengage from the vehicle,” police said in a statement. “The driver then drove away, dragging the officer with the vehicle.

“A second responding officer verbally ordered the driver multiple times to stop the vehicle as it continued in the parking lot, dragging the officer,” the statement said. “After repeated orders to stop, the officer fire three to four shots at the driver.”

The driver, 52, was wounded in the left arm, police said. The Sunfire stopped and the driver and a passenger were arrested. A third suspect was arrested in the store. All three suspects are from Joliet, Ill.

Felony charges were filed against two suspects Friday morning: Robert Russell, 51, and Gerald Chamberlain, 28. Romeoville police said Russell was a passenger in the car when the shooting took place and Chamberlain was still inside the store.

The driver had not been charged as of Friday morning, according to records on the Will County Sheriff’s website. He was being treated at Loyola Medical Center.

The officer was treated and released from Bolingbrook Adventist Hospital.

Employees at the Romeoville store referred comment to Kohl’s spokeswoman Sydney Hofer, who declined to say whether private security or off-duty police were at the store Thursday evening.

Hofer said in a statement that Kohl’s was cooperating with the investigation, but would not provide additional information.

Shoppers expecting crowds, not crime scenes, seemed stunned to see the heavy police presence in front of the store. Some snapped photos with phones, and several asked reporters what was going on.

“Is the store open?” one woman asked. “What happened?”

Several shoppers approaching the blocked main entrance and walked to the edge of the police tape without breaking stride, prompting warnings from police not to duck under the tape. The shoppers were directed by police to an unblocked entrance north of the police tape.

Watching the scene from the department store’s window, Turner’s daughter Meghan said she was still planning on shopping elsewhere early this morning.

“I just need a nap so I can go back out at 5 a.m.,” she said.

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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