A 22-year-old man was shot in the back during a confrontation near the skate park in Ehlert Park in Brookfield, Thursday night, and one bullet struck the grandstand of a nearby soccer field, police said.
Police evacuated the park following the incident and no one else was wounded by gunfire. Witnesses told police they heard as many as five shots, but investigators have not recovered any shell casings. Two ball games were taking place directly west of the where the man was shot. He was found lying near the southern edge of the parking lot near the skate park.
Steven Stelter, Brookfield’s police chief, said Friday morning that detectives “have developed a strong suspect that we’re looking for.” No one is in custody at this time. According to Stelter, the people involved in the incident “are known gang members and do not reside in Brookfield.”
The incident occurred around 9:10 p.m. According to police, the victim got into a shouting match with two men who were driving through the parking lot in a vehicle about an hour prior to the shooting.
Just after 9 p.m., the victim was sitting on the bleachers next to the soccer field with some other people when they noticed the two men from the vehicle walking toward them from the east through the park. The victim reportedly started walking toward the two other men, but apparently turned around and began running away when one of the subjects approaching from the east pulled out a handgun.
The shooter and his accomplice were last seen running east through the park toward Prairie Avenue. A firefighter who was standing outside the firehouse reportedly saw the muzzle flashes from the gun and heard the shots. He made the initial 911 call, said police.
Paramedics located the victim on the ground in the park near the southern end of the parking lot and transported him to Loyola University Medical Center, where he underwent surgery Thursday night. According to Stelter, the man’s injuries are not life-threatening and he has been able to talk to police.
The bullet that struck the grandstand was found beneath the bleachers by a team from the Cook County Sheriff’s Forensic Unit, which was called in to assist with the investigation, said Stelter.
Two ball games, 10-and-under girls softball and an 18-and-under Babe Ruth Baseball state playoff game between LaGrange and Matteson, were in progress directly west of where the man was shot. Jack Hayes, a Brookfield resident who was watching the baseball game, said he heard the shots but thought they were random fire crackers.
“I heard three bangs, but was thinking they were fireworks, because it’s been going on all week,” Hayes said. “All of a sudden there were a bunch of squad cars and 10-year-old girls screaming and running off the field.”
Jimmy Rychman, a Brookfield resident who was standing by the concession stand in the park at the time of the shooting, also thought the shots were fireworks. Earlier that day as he and Hayes were getting the baseball field ready for the game, Rychman said he chased some kids out of the park for shooting off fireworks.
“It’s usually pretty quiet,” said Rychman, who said he lives across the street from the park. “This is pretty out of the ordinary.”
The ball games that were suspended by the incident were resumed Friday afternoon.
Brookfield Police Lt. Edward Petrak said a police officer was assigned to be at the park during the games on Friday and said officers will increase patrols of the park.
“We obviously need to be more present in the park,” said Petrak. “We need to be out there making sure we know who’s in the park. We’re going to continue to be present in the park on a regular basis.”