Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx fired back Monday night at Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot who hours earlier blasted the prosecutor's decision not to charge five men who police linked to a deadly gang shootout in Austin.
Chicago police sought to charge all five suspects with murder and aggravated battery in connection with last week's mid-morning gunfight that left one shooter dead and two of the suspects wounded. But by Sunday morning, a Chicago police spokeswoman acknowledged the suspects had “been released without charges.”
Members of a gang faction started to shoot into a residence in an effort to lure out or injure members of a rival gang, according to city officials. Uniformed officers in a marked police vehicle witnessed "much of the activity," and it's believed the incident was captured on officer body-worn camera.
Foxx's office explained that prosecutors had “determined that the evidence was insufficient to meet our burden of proof to approve felony charges,” a spokeswoman said, adding that police officials agreed with the decision.
A police report framed the decision to decline charges in a different light than what prosecutors initially said: “Mutual combatants was cited as the reason for the rejection.” Mutual combat is a legal term used to define a fight or struggle that two parties willingly engage in.
Lightfoot and five Chicago aldermen wrote a letter to Foxx Monday, in which they voiced disagreement with the assessment, saying "the individuals who initiated the gunfire are not 'mutual combatants and 'certainly were not firing in self-defense."
The city officials said they simply don't understand the decision not to seek felony charges, such as attempted murder, against the remaining two offenders who initiated the gunfight.
"Giving these kinds of violent offenders a pass when their crime is fully captured on video and with police on the scene is completely unacceptable," they said, in part. "...This kind of brazen violence must be met with a swift and certain accountability through felony charges. Anything short of that invites more lawlessness and more brazenness which too many communities are experiencing in this time."
In addition, Lightfoot and the aldermen said both the Chicago Police Department superintendent and chief of detectives don't support the decision not to seek charges.
Foxx responded in a statement, saying the facts presented by Mayor Lightfoot aren't in line with the information provided to prosecutors by Chicago police.
"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," the statement read. "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."
Last week, Cook County prosecutors came under fire after making a similar argument after a teenager was stabbed to death during a fight in suburban Schaumburg. The family of the victim, 18-year-old Manuel Porties Jr., later told WGN that prosecutors specifically said they weren’t charging the 17-year-old suspect with murder because the fatal fight amounted to mutual combat.