Hostage situation in Waukegan ends as suspect eludes arrest
By Judy Masterson firstname.lastname@example.org September 8, 2013 5:08PM
A NIPAS member helps a handicapped person evacuate the Berwick Apartments building. | JUDY MASTERSON~SUN-TIMES MEDIA
Updated: November 8, 2013 2:36AM
What started as a hostage situation around 11 a.m. and evolved into a police standoff, ended just before 5 p.m. Sunday at a Berwick Apartments building in Waukegan, but no suspect was found and no arrest was made.
Police said the address was 1605 Berwick Blvd., just west of the Aldi food store on Lewis Avenue. Berwick is a north/south street, running parallel to Lewis.
A woman who lives with her 3-year-old child in a third-story apartment at the address called 911 to report that her estranged husband was in the apartment, that the two had struggled and that he was armed with a small black handgun, according to Waukegan Police Cmdr. Joe Florip.
Florip said the Northern Illinois Police Alarm System was notified and dispatched to the scene. NIPAS is a multi-jurisdictional agency that specializes in SWAT tactics.
Witnesses estimated that nearly 100 police quickly swarmed the neighborhood. Florip declined to give a number.
The 3-year-old was able to escape the apartment and run out of the building, and shortly thereafter, the child’s mother, who suffered minor injuries, did the same. Florip said the man followed the woman outside, but retreated back into the building when he saw police.
Florip said the man was wanted on a warrant from the Illinois Department of Corrections.
Hundreds of residents of the apartment complex stood outside, some of them unable to re-enter buildings cordoned off with police tape. Others, including Josh Maise, 25, were ordered to stay inside.
“I woke up and saw police outside by my brother’s truck,” Maise said. “At first, I thought somebody had tried to steal it.”
Many others, alerted by Facebook posts, drove in from outside the neighborhood to watch the action, as rifle-carrying sharpshooters surrounded the brown brick building. Florip said it was “standard operating procedure” to bring in NIPAS when confronted with an armed person in a residential setting.
“It’s better to have more (personnel) than not enough,” he said.
Some residents in the 1605 building were evacuated, including a girl in a wheelchair whose family lived next door and who was rushed down the street by armed NIPAS officers.
Maria Mireya, who has lived in the complex for 17 years, said there’s been an uptick in trouble in the neighborhood in recent years.
“We have kids,” Mireya said. “We don’t feel safe here anymore. It’s dangerous.”
According to witnesses, police shot tear gas into the apartment shortly after 4 p.m. A short time later, they entered the unit but were unable to locate the suspect. As word spread, residents grumbled.
“It’s a waste of taxpayer money,” said Courtney Davis.
“They couldn’t get one guy?” asked Brittany Stittiam.
Jeremy Gilliam, 25, who lives at the complex and who said he alerted Facebook friends about the incident as it unfolded, stood with a group and watched as two large NIPAS trucks and another armored vehicle rolled back down the street and as dozens of SWAT officers in helmets and protective vests retreated.
“All this manpower — for nothing,” Gilliam said.