A high-ranking Chicago police commander was fatally shot by a suspect at the Thompson Center in the downtown Chicago Loop during a chase Tuesday afternoon.
Commander Paul Bauer was 53 and oversaw the Near North District, also known as the 18th District. Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson was close to tears as he announced Bauer’s death. “It’s a difficult day for us, but we’ll get through it,” he said in a press conference.
The suspect was arrested at the scene. WGN-TV anchor Ben Bradley tweeted, “Source says Chicago police officer who was shot at the Thompson Center is a high ranking member of the department. He was rushed to the hospital.” A suspect is in custody and a gun was recovered, Johnson said.
The suspect has not been identified publicly, but the Chicago Sun-Times reports that the man in custody was wearing body armor and is a felon. The 44-year-old suspect has a lengthy record, including an armed robbery conviction, the newspaper reports. He was convicted of armed robbery in 1998 and sentenced to 16 years in prison.
In 2007, he was charged with being a felon in possession of body armor, possession of a defaced firearm and possession of heroin and was sentenced to another three years in prison. In 2011, he was convicted of battery and given community service. His most recent charge was drug possession in 2014, and he received two years in prison after being convicted in that case. The Sun Times and other news outlets are not identifying the suspect because he has not yet been charged in Bauer’s death.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Bauer, a 31-Year Veteran of the CPD, Was ‘Senselessly Murdered’ While Assisting a Tactical Team Chase the Suspect
Chicago police confirmed Bauer’s death and said he was “senselessly murdered.”
“18th Dist Cmdr. Paul Bauer – a 31 year veteran of the CPD – was senselessly murdered today while safeguarding Chicago. Cmdr. Bauer was assisting officers in apprehending a suspicious person when he was fatally shot. Person of interest is in custody,” police wrote. The Chicago Tribune reported that Bauer had worked “all across the city” during his career, from the south to the near north side.
Early on, Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tweeted out some sketchy details on the incident. “UPDATE – CPD officer assisting a tactical team and was shot by assailant. Transported to Northwest Hospital. Updates to follow,” he wrote.
Guglielmi also tweeted, “Shooting – Thompson center. CPD member shot. Transported to area hospital. Superintendent Johnson and command staff en route. Updates to follow.”
The police superintendent then confirmed the tragic news that Bauer had died. Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in a news conference that Bauer was shot multiple times.
The officer was reportedly shot four times in a stairwell at the Thompson Center.
It was initially reported that Bauer was off duty, but Guglielmi later said the commander was on duty at the time of the shooting. Incorrect information was circulated at the scene.
According to CBS Local, the shot officer “was assisting a tactical team at the time, and was shot by an assailant.” According to the Tribune, the officer was shot when responding to a robbery call.
However, in the news conference, Johnson revealed that Bauer was at the Thompson Center for a training session when “a man started running from tactical officers who had tried to stop him for questioning… The officers radioed a description that the commander heard.” Johnson then confronted the man and was shot.
The man had been spotted in a known drug dealing area where a shooting recently occurred, and police wanted to question him before he ran.
2. Paul Bauer Was Previously in Charge of the Mounted Patrol Unit & Rose Through the Department’s Ranks
Bauer held a series of positions with the Chicago Police Department, including as head of the mounted patrol unit. “He was in charge of the mounted unit in 2013 when the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. Officers on 30 horses kept control of the streets in Wrigleyville after people broke down police barricades,” reported Fox 32.
People near the scene told CBS Local that it was a chaotic and frightening moment. “They actually had us locked in Walgreens,” one witness said to CBS. “They taped it off, so we couldn’t get out. Just for a minute, and then they all hopped in their cop cars, and they all went south on Clark.”
In an interview with a local news station, Bauer talked about how most of the horses in the unit were named after fallen officers, and how that made him emotional every time he thought about it.
3. Bauer Advocated for Stricter Sentences for Career Offenders, Like the 4-Time Felon Accused of Killing Him
Commander Paul Bauer expressed his frustration with sentences multiple time felons were receiving just four months before his death, the Chicago Tribune reports. In an interview with a local newspaper, the Loop North News, Bauer advocated for tougher sentences for career offenders. The suspect accused of shooting him has four felony convictions on his record.
“We’re not talking about the guy that stole a loaf of bread from the store to feed his family,” Bauer told the Loop North News, according to the Tribune. “We’re talking about career robbers, burglars, drug dealers. These are all crimes against the community. They need to be off the street.”
Bauer told the newspaper he thought the push by Cook County to set more affordable bails was an effort to reduce the jail population.
“Maybe I’m jaded,” he told the newspaper. “But I don’t think that is anything to be proud of.”
A fellow police commander, Marc Buslik, told the Tribune that Bauer was “the ideal district commander for downtown. He was thoughtful. He became very adept at handling the various demonstrations. He was very good at controlling events. He was just very solid and very steady, even-tempered and thoughtful.”
Jefferson Park Captain Hootan Bahmandeji told the Tribune, ” He was very conscientious of his job. The troops loved him, and he took care of the troops. He was an all-around good guy.”
While Bauer did push back on some criminal justice reforms, he also made efforts to improve the community’s relationship with police. He started “Coffee With a Commander,” and talked about that program with a local news program, The Jam TV Show. You can watch his interview with the news show from September below:
“I know there’s a perception out there that there’s this wall or there’s a lot of mistrust with the police department. On my perspective, I’ve never been thanked more for my service in the last two to three years total, compared to the previous 28 years,” he told the news show. “I think there’s a huge support, I know in the 18th District, and I know people don’t know the ranks of the Chicago Police Department, they see a police officer and they’re coming up and they’re talking to them, they’re thanking us for our service, so we have that going on now and if somebody is hesitant, I encourage you to approach an officer, because we’re happy to meet ya and we’re happy for your support.
4. The Police Superintendent Wrote That the Department Had Suffered a Tragedy ‘That Is Difficult to Comprehend’
Chicago’s Police Superintendent sent out an email to the department that confirmed the tragedy. According to the Chicago Tribune, it read, “Today, our department suffered a tragedy that it is difficult to comprehend. This afternoon, a CPD commander was shot while assisting fellow officers. Information is still coming in at this time, but I wanted you to know as soon as possible. We will provide additional details as they come. Please take the time to keep his family in your thoughts and prayers. Stay safe.”
The mayor paid tribute to Bauer, saying in a statement, “His death is a tragic reminder of the dangerous duty the men and women of our police department accept to ensure the safety of us all.”
5. Bauer Volunteered for Charity Efforts to Help Fallen Officers
Bauer was known as a person who gave back, working on charity efforts, including those remembering fallen police officers. “Bauer was involved with the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation, which assists the families of fallen and injured officers,” reported Fox 32. “He helped with the Horses of Honor project.” That project involved the creation of statues of horses that were almost all named for fallen officers, according to the television station.
Noreen Janko told The Chicago Tribune that she heard about five shots, “and then the stairs there to the pedway, I think they have the guy cornered because they lock those doors down there. So they took him with shackles and then they put him in the squad. Then the ambulance came, about five minutes (later) they brought out a guy who was shot. He was on the stretcher, there was blood and they were doing (CPR).”