Editor’s alert: A quote in this story contains raw language.
Too much and not enough. That’s what some residents of Roscoe Village are saying about Monday night’s shooting by Chicago police officers of a cougar in a neighborhood alley.
Two elements in the strange animal tale on the city’s North side concern neighbors in Roscoe Village. Some say that Animal Care and Control did not respond quickly enough, while others feel that police may have overreacted by “shooting up the neighborhood.”
The big cat was first spotted at about 7:30 Monday morning by a teacher at Audubon Elementary School, half a block north of where Chicago police shot and killed the cougar 10 hours later. According to Principal John Price, one of his staff saw the cougar in an alley just east of the school, behind the 3600 block of North Hoyne.
“We called 911 at 7:30,” Price said, “and about an hour later, three animal control officers came to the school and spoke with us.” Price could not say what the animal control officers did after they left Audubon Elementary.
Marylou Kovak is a neighbor who says police overreacted once the cat was spotted again, later in the afternoon. She and her fiancé live at 3427 N. Hamilton Ave., west of the alley. Kovak says her fiancé, Michael Reynolds, had an unobstructed view of the shooting as he worked at his computer by the rear window, which overlooks the alley where the cougar was killed. Kovak did not see the shooting itself, she says, but said Reynolds did.
“Michael said the cougar was just cowering there,” Kovak told Booster. “My fiancé said it seemed afraid.” According to Kovak, Reynolds said that about “20 uniformed police officers were lined up” to contain the cougar into a small parking area just off of the alley. “Michael said about six or seven officers opened fire on the cougar.” Kovak saw the police just before and just after the shooting.
“It felt like every officer in the 19th District was here,” she said. The cougar was killed just before 5:30 in the afternoon.
Another neighbor, Eric Cartier, tells a similar story. He and his roommate were at home at 3420 N. Hoyne Ave. at 5:30 p.m. According to Cartier, “a lot of police” swarmed out of the alley just west of his home. “We heard police shouting for people to get inside, get inside,” Cartier said, “then we heard some gunshots.”
Cartier said he and his roommate initially thought the police were chasing criminals, but later were told by a neighbor that police were chasing a cougar. Cartier pointed out the spot in front of the residence next door where the cougar jumped a fence and ran through the gangway, then toward the alley.
One officer, says Cartier, fired through the fence and struck a neighbor’s central air conditioner. Cartier says he saw that officer on a cellphone minutes later, and recalls the officer telling somebody “I just killed a f—ing cougar!” Cartier says a lot of bullets were fired through the gangway. “The sidewalk was full of spent shells,” he said.
But the cougar was not yet dead. It worked its way quickly through the back yard and into the alley, where Kovak’s fiancé saw about 20 officers corner the animal, finally killing it in a hail of gunfire.
Kovak said animal control did not come to the site of the cougar’s death until about 7 p.m., 90 minutes after it had been killed by police. She wonders what animal control was doing between the time the cat was reported early in the morning until 90 minutes after it was killed.
The owner of the bullet-riddled air conditioner chooses to remain anonymous, but told Booster that the City of Chicago has offered to pay for a new one.