CHICAGO — Debbie Turner was leaving a Chicago area Kohl’s store with her daughter when she saw a police officer, his shirt off and his shoulder bandaged, getting into an ambulance. Other officers were taking a man into custody.
Then she saw her car, surrounded by crime tape and not far from a black Pontiac Sunfire with a side window shot out.
Turner had been inside the store with her 26-year-old daughter Meghan Thursday night, getting a jump on holiday deals with a crowd of other shoppers, when a suspected shoplifter was shot by police after dragging an officer in the parking lot, authorities said.
“I didn’t hear a thing,” said Turner, of Lockport.
The crime scene caused a spectacle in the bustling parking lot but did not halt shopping at the department store at 261 South Weber Road. People stared and took photos before walking around the yellow tape blocking one of the store’s entrances.
The commotion began about 10 p.m. when police were alerted to a theft in progress at the store, Romeoville Police Chief Mark Turvey said. Police officers waited outside the store and soon saw two men bringing a shopping cart out of the store toward the Sunfire, police and witnesses said.
One of the suspects ran toward the Sunfire, police said. An officer caught up with him but the suspect “closed the car door on the officer’s arm, not allowing the officer to disengage from the vehicle,” police said in a statement. “The driver then drove away, dragging the officer with the vehicle.
“A second responding officer verbally ordered the driver multiple times to stop the vehicle as it continued in the parking lot, dragging the officer,” the statement said. “After repeated orders to stop, the officer fire three to four shots at the driver.”
The driver, 52, was wounded in the left arm, police said. The Sunfire stopped and the driver and a passenger were arrested. A third suspect was arrested in the store. All three suspects are from Joliet.
Felony charges were filed against two suspects Friday morning: Robert Russell, 51, of the 500 block of Francis Avenue, and Gerald Chamberlain, 28, of the 1300 block of Englewood. Romeoville police said Russell was a passenger in the car when the shooting took place and Chamberlain was still inside the store.
Russell was booked in the Will County Jail on charges of attempted murder, retail theft and obstructing an officer. Chamberlain was jailed on a single count of felony theft.
Both men have lengthy criminal histories. Russell was arrested for obstructing a peace officer in 2009. He was also sent to prison on theft and drug charges in 2002, according to Will County court records.
Chamberlain was jailed in 2008 for resisting a peace officer or correctional employee. In 2009, he was sent to prison on a cocaine charge. He’s now awaiting trial on a felony drug charge, records show.
The driver had not been charged as of Friday morning, according to records on the Will County Sheriff’s website. He was being treated at Loyola Medical Center.
The officer was treated and released from Bolingbrook Adventist Hospital.
Employees at the Romeoville store referred comment to Kohl’s spokeswoman Sydney Hofer, who declined to say whether private security or off-duty police were at the store Thursday evening.
Hofer said in a statement that Kohl’s was cooperating with the investigation, but would not provide additional information.
Shoppers expecting crowds, not crime scenes, seemed stunned to see the heavy police presence in front of the store. Some snapped photos with phones, and several asked reporters what was going on.
“Is the store open?” one woman asked. “What happened?”
Several shoppers approaching the blocked main entrance and walked to the edge of the police tape without breaking stride, prompting warnings from police not to duck under the tape. The shoppers were directed by police to an unblocked entrance north of the police tape.