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Was Chicago almost a replication of the Buffalo mass shooting?

by Tanesha Peeples
Was Chicago almost a replication of the Buffalo mass shooting?
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Last Thursday, 29-year-old Woodridge, Illinois resident, Alexander Podgorny, was arrested for firing a gun at a vacant park on the southside of Chicago.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, a gunshot detection system alerted police to a round fired there about 3:30 a.m. Responding officers found the man near his minivan at the scene with a loaded handgun in his pocket, police said. No one else was at the park.

Upon apprehending the suspect, police found a loaded shotgun, an AR-15, two other handguns, more than a thousand rounds of ammo and more than 300 spent shell casings of various calibers. They also recovered a number of handwritten letters with ramblings of incoherent notes and references to other mass shootings. 

At the time of the shooting, Podgorny possessed a FOID card which allowed him to legally own firearms. But he did not have a concealed carry license, permitting him to have those weapons in public.

Authorities narrowly prevent mass shooting in Chicago

In court, Podgorny was charged with five counts of felony unlawful use of a weapon and his bond was set at $300,000. He’s now free and on electronic monitoring after posting 10% of that bond with the possibility of more charges to follow.

Community activists on the Southside are disappointed with the lack of media coverage around this incident and Podgorny’s bail release. Tio Hardiman, the Executive Director of Violence Interrupters said, “If this happened up in Highland Park, it would be on the news each and every day of the week, sincerely. Just because this is a Black community, nobody appears to really, really care,”.

I echo Hardiman’s sentiments, and I’d also like to highlight how eerily close this came to being a replica of the Buffalo, New York mass shooting that occurred in May of this year–and still could be.

I grew up at Moran Park so this assault is personal. 

Right around the corner from my grandparent’s house, it was where I played basketball and softball, participated in a number of Chicago Park District activities year-round and had barbecues with my family as a child. It’s where my fiancé now teaches yoga to the kids that live in Englewood, and it’s where Podgorny chose as the scene of this potential mass shooting.

Would-be mass shooter has no ties to the community

While no one was hurt during the incident and it’s unclear as to whether Podgorny’s motive was to commit a hate crime, it’s suspect that this white man who lives in a predominantly white community 30 miles from Chicago drove and chose to shoot up this park in a predominantly Black community

As far as we know, Podgorny has no ties to the Englewood community–commonalities shared by the Uvalde and Highland Park offenders.

So was his intent to visit the area he planned to carry out a mass shooting, similar to how Payton Gendron staked out Tops Grocery Store two months before he killed 10 Black people at that same location? Until more details come out, we don’t know. But to me, this Chicago duck is quacking like the Buffalo duck.

Second, Hardiman was right to call out the lack of alarm surrounding this occurrence compared to the recent mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois

Attempted mass shooting in Chicago receives little media coverage

The mass shooting at a July 4th parade in the affluent, predominantly white city of Highland Park made national news, almost overshadowing a preceding school shooting in Uvalde, Texas and the Tops Grocery Store mass shooting in Buffalo, New York.

Tragically, those acts of domestic terrorism were successful and should receive mass coverage. The potential for similar assaults – particularly those targeting specific communities – should be urgently and widely amplified as well. In the spirit of preventing these crimes against humanity, authorities have to be more proactive and unbiased in protective measures

Lastly, it’s so wild to me that this man who, based on the evidence presented, probably intended to carry out a mass shooting was allowed to bond out of jail. Charged with several different felonies and in this climate of domestic terrorism being public enemy number one, how was he was allowed to go home?

We can point to gaps in the Illinois criminal justice system for Podgorny’s emancipation, but I’d also argue white privilege was at play here. Because let a Black man try to commit the same crime and his chances of even walking away from a firearm filled van would be slim.

As this story is developing, we’re unsure of Alexander Podgorny’s motives. But as a Chicagoan, Englewoodian and traumatized American, I’m grateful that whatever plan he had was foiled–for now. 

But the thought that this could’ve been another massacre mirroring the one in Buffalo is frightening. And the fact that this perpetrator was allowed to quietly go free under a deeply flawed justice system is infuriating. And what this all means is that national calls for gun and criminal justice reform need to be answered expeditiously.

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