5 suspects in custody in fatal shooting of Chicago police Officer Aréanah Preston
Chicago police Officer Aréanah Preston was driving home alone from work early Saturday when robbers passed her and circled back, apparently thinking she was a good target.
They approached her and she opened fire, setting off a gunfight, according to a law enforcement source. The 24-year-old officer was hit at least twice and also grazed by a bullet.
The robbers grabbed her gun and fled as she lay dying, sources said. But investigators were able to track down one suspect during a stop and also arrested four others after an armed standoff less than 5 miles from where Preston was shot.
It was unclear whether all of the people apprehended were directly involved in Preston’s shooting, sources said. Preston’s gun is thought to have been recovered by police, along with weapons found after the standoff that were converted to fire automatically with a device commonly known as a switch.
Federal authorities were testing the guns that were recovered for DNA that could link them to the killers, a source said. No charges have been announced.
At least two of the suspects have been arrested for gun crimes.
Investigators on Monday were still piecing together exactly what happened when Preston was shot shortly before 2 a.m. in the 8100 block of South Blackstone Avenue in Avalon Park. The shooting was partially captured on home surveillance video, a source said.
The gunfire was recorded by a ShotSpotter detector around 1:43 a.m., according to police radio traffic. About 20 minutes later, an alert came from an Apple watch — apparently Preston’s — and a traffic officer was sent to the scene.
“We got an off-duty officer shot,” the officer radioed at 2:15 a.m. “It’s not looking good.”
The officer then drove her to the University of Chicago Medical Center with a helicopter radioing their location so police could clear intersections. Preston was pronounced dead at the hospital.
In the following hours, a 20-year-old woman was taken into custody by a fugitive apprehension team, a source said. She allegedly drove a car to steal another vehicle that was used in the shooting and that was later found torched.
The four other suspects were apprehended after an armed standoff in the 7600 block of South Bishop Street in Auburn Gresham that began Sunday night and lasted hours, according to a source with knowledge of the arrests.
Preston’s attackers are suspected of robbing other people around the same time, a source said. Late last month, police issued an alert warning of three similar robberies in the area.
“In these incidents, the victims exited their vehicles when another unknown vehicle arrived and multiple offenders exited and approached, armed with handguns, and demanded the victim’s property,” according to the alert. “The offenders then returned to their vehicle and fled.”
‘There’s always one bad apple’
On Monday morning, a person who lived near one of the suspects described him as “a menace.”
“I’m not surprised at all,” said the nearby resident, who asked not to be named.
The suspect, a 19-year-old man, had lived in Auburn Gresham for two years with his mother and younger sibling, the resident said.
Although they had never seen drugs or guns at the home, the resident said, “He’s a typical thug” who has been “in and out of jail.” Police had been called to the home three or four times a year, they said.
“I hope he didn’t kill that lady, but I’m glad he’s off the streets,” the resident said.
The block, mostly single-family homes with video doorbells, is typically quiet, they said. “There’s always one bad apple,” they added. “And he was the bad one.”
Court records show the man’s first adult arrest came in July 2021 when he was caught with a gun equipped with an extended magazine after police responded to a ShotSpotter alert and stopped a car in Grand Crossing.
While in custody, he spat on a cop and tried to kick another officer, according to police records. The charges were dropped in November 2021.
Less than a week later, he was arrested again after allegedly throwing his mother and two televisions down the stairs of their Auburn Gresham home and flattening one of her car tires, according to court records. A protective order was granted, but the charges were eventually stricken last December.
As that case was pending, he was indicted in June 2022 on felony gun charges, records show. He pleaded guilty to a single count of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon in January and was sentenced to two years probation and 50 hours of community service.
He was also arrested last September when tactical officers forced their way into a home in the 11200 block of South Indiana Avenue, and he was found sleeping near a “ghost” gun with an extended magazine, records show. The charge was dropped days later.
A 21-year-old woman who was also taken into custody during the SWAT incident was previously arrested in April 2021 and charged with a misdemeanor count of having a gun in her bedroom without a valid firearm owners identification card, court records show. The charge was dismissed in January 2022.
The suspect who was taken into custody during a traffic stop, a 20-year-old woman, had been arrested in December 2021 and charged with misdemeanor domestic battery for allegedly punching another person and pulling her hair at the group home where they lived. The case was dropped in February 2022.
A ‘beautiful soul’ who wanted to make a positive change
Preston’s father, Allen Preston, described his daughter as a “beautiful soul” who “always saw the best in people” and had long wanted to be a police officer.
“She was trying to make a change on this Earth. It’s unforgivable, in my eyes,” he said of her shooting.
Preston was pursuing a master’s degree in criminology from Loyola University Chicago and would have graduated Saturday, according to a university spokesperson.
Preston’s aunt, Norma Mhoon, said in a Facebook video posted Sunday that it “weakens me to even think that she’s gone.”
“She’s a very good sweetheart,” Mhoon said. “A very nice person: educated, intelligent in every way, striving for her master’s, her goals and everything. She was just doing such a great job. And this happened to her. It’s unbelievable.”