Several Forest Park residents called police about shots fired on the 1000 block of Circle Avenue, Dec. 12.
At least 20 shots were fired at 1021 Circle Ave., with bullets striking residents’ walls, windows and a TV, according to a statement issued by the Forest Park Police Department. No injuries were reported. Detectives believe the shooting was not a random act of violence and are working to establish a motive.
Officers arrived at the Circle Avenue home about 11:35 p.m. and immediately noticed several brass shell casings strewn across the street, according to a police report. One neighbor told police he heard approximately 10 shots, looked out his window and saw a young man run into a dark, four-door sedan that was parked facing the two-flat. The man got into the car, and the vehicle sped northbound.
Police walked around the residence, found a shattered window on the second floor with a large hole through its center, and noticed several bullets had hit the building’s exterior.
A resident on the second floor walked downstairs and let officers into the building. She was visibly shaken when she greeted police, but not hurt.
Residents on the first floor, which included a family with two young children, told police they were not injured but very scared. Officers described them as visibly shaken. They said they had been in their front room, which faces Circle Avenue, watching TV when they heard loud shouting and bullets flying into the unit, striking their windows, walls and TV. The family said they don’t have any problems with people and could not identify any suspects.
Residents on the second floor told officers they had been in the unit when they heard shouting and a bullet entered their apartment, striking their wall. They told officers they didn’t see the offender and could not provide suspect information. When talking to police, officers noticed the victim was eager to leave immediately. Police later found he has a twin brother whom Forest Park police arrested in April 2017. Both brothers share similar neck tattoos.
A resident of block told police he was sleeping during the incident, and woke to the sound of muffled gunshots. He said his family did not need any medical attention. Their home was not damaged.
Another resident told officers he heard several gunshots, looked outside and saw a black Honda Civic traveling northbound on Circle, then headed east on Harvard Street. He said the vehicle did not leave the scene quickly. Several bullets impacted the exterior of his residence. The victim believes the shooting might involve the residents who live on the second floor of the targeted home, because he has had issues with them since they moved there in January.
Another neighbor told police he was in his back room when he heard about 10 shots. He also said he has noticed suspicious activity by residents of the second floor of the home for about a year.
Another resident of the block told police they heard about six gunshots, a pause and then another six gunshots.
“Detectives are presently conducting an in-depth investigation, working with the landlord and scouring the neighborhood for further witnesses or any video footage that might shed some light on the identity of the offenders in this reckless shooting,” according to a police statement.
Detectives believe offenders targeted the two-flat and that this was not a random shooting. They also noticed there are two security cameras mounted on the side of a nearby home, which might have recorded the incident.
In a Facebook post, Mayor Anthony Calderone praised the work of local police and landlord Atul Mohlajee for moving tenants out of the residence. Mohlajee is an Oak Park resident who purchased the then-foreclosed 1021 Circle building for $155,000 about three years ago.
“The landlord of 1021 Circle has been extremely cooperative since the event of last week and took steps immediately to excuse the tenant on the second floor,” Calderone wrote. “They moved out this weekend. Excellent work by our Crime Free Multi-Housing officer and the concerned and cooperative landlord.”
Mike O’Connor, crime-free multi-housing officer for Forest Park, said Mohlajee voluntarily enrolled in the local crime-free multi-housing program many years ago, to learn best practices on how to rent to tenants and manage property. He had all renters at 1021 Circle sign a crime-free lease addendum, which essentially promises the landlord they will do what they can to keep crime off the property. The shooting on Dec. 12 violates that portion of the lease; it also violates a state law that says if a landlord believes a Class A misdemeanor is occurring on the property he has the right to void a tenant’s lease.
Mohlajee “told them they had to go and they said OK,” O’Connor said. “He told them he had everything lined up in case they fought him on it; it didn’t get that far.”
Mohlajee did not respond to an interview request. O’Connor and a nearby neighbor said they believe all the tenants have moved out of 1021 Circle Ave. O’Connor said he didn’t know if the second floor tenants moved out of Forest Park.