The village of Forest Park is advising residents to stay indoors from 8 p.m. May 31 through 6 a.m. June 1, according to Mayor Rory Hoskins.
A message on Forest Park’s Facebook page at 7:47 p.m. on May 31 said, “There have been multiple burglary attempts targeting businesses located in Forest Park. At this time, we’re asking residents to be off the streets from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. The supermarkets, drug stores and liquor stores in our town are closed until further notice. Please avoid these locations; we believe these are the most likely to be targeted.”
Looting threatened Forest Park all afternoon, though as of 7 p.m. no injuries or substantial property damage had occurred despite serious looting and gunshots, including one person shot, in nearby North Riverside and commotion in other towns.
Walmart, 1300 Desplaines Ave., was closed prior to 1 p.m. on May 31 because store officials were alerted that looters had planned to target the store. Police vehicles guarded the entrances to the parking lot. Portillo’s and Dollar Tree, across Roosevelt Road, were closed as well.
Melody Winston, an executive at Living Word Christian Center, said they’d made the decision to shut down the mall entirely, including Living Fresh food store. “We want to make sure everyone’s safe,” she said.
Walgreens on the corner of Harlem Avenue and Roosevelt Road was attacked by looters in the afternoon. According to Police Chief Tom Aftanas, the suspects briefly got inside the store via the back entrance but were stopped before too much damage was done.
By later afternoon, most of the restaurants and bars that had earlier been open for outdoor dining and drinks on Madison Street had closed, bringing their tables and chairs inside.
Brown Cow taped a sign next to their take-out window. “George Floyd matters. Black lives matter,” reads the sign.
U.S. Bank on the corner of Madison Street and Desplaines Avenue was broken into around 5:10 p.m. There were four suspects in an SUV. One broke a window on the bank’s Desplaines Avenue side to gain entry. That suspect was caught but couldn’t be identified and had nothing stolen on his person, so he could not be detained. The other three in the SUV were not apprehended.
A window at U.S.A. Beverage, 7200 Madison St., was broken, but the suspects did not gain entry. They took off in a car and were pursued by police to Harlem Avenue and I-290.
Aftanas reported that the looters in and around Forest Park appeared to be a convoy of cars driving around together, looking for businesses without a police presence to target.
“We are being as visible as possible to deter looting,” said Aftanas. He said that multiple shifts were working to ensure coverage.
Aftanas said, “It is unbelievable what is happening.” He said he watched the video of George Floyd and wanted to see if, in any way, what the officer did could be understood.
“Why would the officer do that?” asked Aftanas. “Is there any justification at all?” The answer, he said, is no.
“There is no justification for what happened, and there is no cop in Forest Park who thinks so,” said Aftanas.
Aftanas said that officers will continue to be vigilant, especially during the overnight hours.
Village Administrator Tim Gillian, who was seen by the Review throughout the afternoon on Madison Street and around town, said he’d been in contact with the businesses on Madison Street to make sure they were aware of the conditions in neighboring towns and the threats in Forest Park. He reiterated what Aftanas had said, that the looters appeared to be “very mobile” and in cars, driving around looking for targets.
Hoskins said he’d spent hours stationed outside a local liquor store, since liquor stores seemed to be a prime target for criminal activity on May 31.
“The more eyes on the street the better,” said Hoskins, who was ready to call Forest Park police if anything suspicious happened.
He said he’d been in contact with Aftanas, Gillian and other village officials through the day and that Forest Park had been coordinating well with neighboring police departments.
Hoskins said that the biggest threats appear to be the big stores, like Walmart, Walgreens and CVS, and extra police presence will be maintained in those areas and all areas in town.
“We’ll have a visible presence up and down Harlem Avenue and Roosevelt Road,” said Hoskins. He added that the public works department would be placing large trucks to block entrances to the Forest Park Plaza on Roosevelt Road.
“This situation is disturbing,” said Hoskins. “We have a pandemic and now we have unrest. I urge people stay indoors.”