A 19-year-old Chicago woman is facing attempted murder and several other charges after she shot a Chicago police officer in the shoulder through a door while the officer was serving a warrant at her apartment, police say. Emily Petronella was arrested Saturday, March 9, after the officer was shot in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago, according to a press release from the city police department. The officer, who has not been identified, is expected to survive, but suffered a serious shoulder injury, police said.
Petronella was held without bond after appearing in bond court on Sunday. Petronella’s mother and her attorney said after her court appearance that she was in the apartment alone, heard a loud noise and thought someone was trying to break in. Prosecutors say the officers loudly announced, “Chicago Police, search warrant,” while using a battering ram on the back door of Petronella’s apartment. According to prosecutors, the officers were wearing items identifying themselves as Chicago Police.
Police did not fire back at Petronella during the incident. She surrendered to officers. According to police, a search warrant served at the apartment after the shooting led to the discovery of a large amount of marijuana, bundles of cash and a handgun. Petronella has been previously arrested three times in the past year, twice on drug charges and once on a misdemeanor charge accusing her of illegal weapon possession.
In the March 9 shooting incident, Petronella was charged with five felony counts of first-degree attempted murder, aggravated assault on a peace officer with a weapon, armed violence with the discharge of a weapon, aggravated discharge of a firearm at a police officer and possession of more than 5,000 grams of cannabis with the intent to manufacture/deliver. She was also charged with a misdemeanor violation of bail bond charge. Petronella is being held without bond at the Cook County Jail. She is scheduled to return to court on Monday, March 11.
Here’s what you need to know about Emily Petronella:
1. Petronella ‘Knowingly & Intentionally’ Fired Through the Back Door of Her Apartment, Wounding the Tactical Officer, Police Say
Police officers with the 25th District tactical unit were serving a search warrant at Emily Petronella’s apartment in the 2700 block of W. Potomac Avenue about 7 p.m., according to a Chicago Police press release. “The offender knowingly and intentionally discharged a firearm through a door striking a police officer and placed other officers on scene in fear of receiving a battery,” police said in the press release.
According to the bond court proffer submitted by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, Petronella was the target of the search warrant. Officers had stationed “numerous marked squad cars in both the front and rear of the building, and activated the emergency lights of the vehicles,” prosecutors said. The officers were wearing items identifying themselves as Chicago Police officers, according to the proffer.
The 34-year-old officer who was shot was at the front of the breach team that approached the rear door of the building. Prosecutors said the officer “loudly announced their office and knocked on the back door,” the officer then “again announced loudly, ‘Chicago Police, search warrant.” Officers, including the officer who was shot, then used a battering ram to attempt to take down the door, according to prosecutors.
“As officers attempted to breach the door, a light inside the residence turned off,” prosecutors said. “As officers struck the door a 4th time, Emily Petronella discharged a firearm from inside the apartment, firing one shot through the rear door. The bullet, fired by the defendant, struck the victim in his left shoulder. … Officers rendered aid to the victim officer and secured the scene.”
According to the bond proffer, the officers saw a woman looking out of the window facing west toward an alley and ordered her out of the building. She came outside and was taken into custody. The woman, later identified as Emily Petronella, “mad admissions, including that she fired the gun through the door,” according to the document.
“Evidence technicians recovered a loaded 9mm semi-automatic handgun in a bedroom, along with a fired 9mm cartridge casing on the floor next to the bathroom, about 20 feet away from the rear door. Evidence technicians also recovered one live 9mm round of ammunition on the floor of the bedroom,” prosecutors said. “Additional live rounds of firearm ammunition were also recovered inside the apartment. After the scene was processed, officers continued to execute the search warrant and recovered over 10,000 grams of suspect cannabis in various locations throughout the apartment.”
Police said they also found $950 in cash on Petronella’s person.
Petronella, who faces several decades and possibly up to life in prison, was ordered held without bond during her appearance in bond court. Cook County Judge Stephen Miller said, “she poses a real and present threat to the safety of the community,” according to WGN-TV.
2. Her Mother Says Her Daughter Called Her Before the Shooting Saying Someone Was Breaking Into Her Apartment & Says Petronella Has a FOID Card & Bought the Gun to Protect Herself
Emily Petronella’s mother, Sandra Vargas Petronella, told the Chicago Sun-Times that her daughter thought someone was breaking into the house. Her mother said Petronella called her before the shooting.
“She was hysterical. She called me while I was at the mall: ‘They’re breaking in. They’re breaking in.’ And then she hung up,” her mother told the newspaper.
Sandra Petronella told the Sun-Times her daughter has a firearms owner identification (FOID) card and owned the handgun “to protect herself. She’s allowed to protect herself.”
Sun-Times reporter Matthew Hendrickson tweeted, “The woman’s mother said they had a security system installed recently after a burglary at the home where a shotgun was held to her head. She said her daughter had a right to protect herself.”
Her mother also told the Chicago Tribune her daughter called her and said, “Mom, Mom, someone’s breaking in the back.” She said her daughter hung up and she didn’t hear from her again. Her mother said someone broke into the house about six months ago and that was when her daughter decided to get a gun, according to the Tribune.
The apartment building where the shooting occurred is owned by Petronella’s grandfather, who also lives in the building along with her mother and other family members. According to the Sun-Times, Petronella and her mother live on the second floor, while her grandfather lives on the first floor. Neighbors told the newspaper the family is quiet and doesn’t create problems.
Petronella was the only person home at the time of the shooting and was the target of the “narcotics and illegal weapons search,” police said. At a news conference, police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Petronella was known to police prior to the incident.
While police said the officers loudly announced their presence twice, Petronella’s attorney, Stefan Fenner, argued in court that his client didn’t know it was the police outside her apartment, according to the Sun-Times. He said she heard a loud noise, thought someone was breaking into the home and was responding to that.
Fenner said in court the shooting happened, “at night after dark when [Petronella] is home alone… with someone battering a door from the rear. … It is an issue of announce your honor.”
The incident was recorded on the officers’ body cameras and Fenner told reporters he believes the footage from those cameras will prove his client’s side of the story.
3. Petronella Was Arrested in February When Police Said They Found a Pump Shotgun in Her Car During a Traffic Stop & She Was Arrested Twice on Marijuana-Related Charges in 2018
Emily Petronella had been arrested three times on drug and weapons charges over the past year, according to Chicago Police records. Her most recent arrested was on February 22, 2019. She was charged in that incident with unlawful possession of a weapon and having an obstructed front windshield.
Petronella was released from custody on a $10,000 I-bond on February 23. The I-bond meant she did not have to pay any money, but had to sign a document promising to appear in court. Her next court appearance in that case is scheduled for April 11.
According to police, Petronella was stopped by police on W. Armitage Avenue. “Officers observed the barrel of a shotgun on the rear right side floor board of the defendant’s vehicle. Officers recovered a Mossberg pump action shotgun,” police said. The officers also found $1,155 in cash on her person and an additional $655 in cash inside the car, according to court documents.
On March 18, 2018, Petronella was arrested on N. Lawndale Avenue on several charges, including felony possession of a controlled substance and manufacturing and delivery of marijuana, along with misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia. She was also cited for transportation or possession of alcohol in a motor vehicle and for parking in an alley.
On November 13, 2018, Petronella was arrested on N. Kedzie Avenue and charged with possession of between 10 to 30 grams of marijuana. She was also cited for obstruction of driver’s view/having tinted windows, failing to signal within 100 feet of a turn and driving without insurance.
In the November 2018 case, Petronella was referred to traffic court and the drug charge was dismissed. The March 2018 charges were dropped in April, according to court records.
4. Petronella Was Part of the Marine Corps Junior ROTC Program at Marine Leadership Academy in Chicago
Emily Petronella was in the Marine Corps Junior ROTC program at Marine Leadership Academy, the Chicago high school she attended, according to Facebook posts. It is not clear if she graduated from the school. Her family could not be reached for comment by Heavy about the shooting.
Petronella’s attorney also did not immediately reply to requests for comment from Heavy.
Few other details about Petronella were available Sunday, including whether she is employed anywhere or was in college. Family members social media pages showed her wearing her MCJROTC uniform and at family gatherings.
Her own social media pages have either been deleted or are not under her real name.
“Emily and her family are praying for the officer’s swift recovery,” her attorney, Stefan Fenner told WGN-TV. “We are confident that the Chicago police’s use of body worn cameras is going to help exonerate her in this case, and we’re awaiting a speedy trial to show that she’s innocent of all these charges.”
5. The Officer, Who Served in the Marines for 8 Years, Suffered a Fractured Vertebrae & the Bullet Lodged in His Shoulder, but Is in ‘Good Spirits,’ Police Say
The officer, whose name has not been released, was in the intensive care unit at Stroger Hospital on Sunday, but was expected to survive. The bullet hit the officer in his left shoulder, traveled through it and struck vertebrae before lodging in his right shoulder muscle, according to police.
At a press conference, Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said the officer is in “good spirits,” and is surrounded by his family and fellow officers. Johnson said the officer served in the Marine Corps for eight years and has been a Chicago Police officer for about four years.
Johnson said it was a “typical” warrant search for the tactical team officers until the shooting occurred. “This is another illustration of how dangerous it is for police officers to serve search warrants,” Johnson said at a press conference.
The officer was recovering after surgery, Johnson said. “He’s in good spirits. His family is here with him. Talking a lot; He just wants the ordeal to be over with,” he added.