Johnson laments officer’s shooting death, says ‘policing alone’ won’t solve Chicago’s gun violence

Mayor Brandon Johnson on Monday decried the slaying of Chicago police Officer Luis Huesca over the weekend while reiterating that “it can’t be policing alone” that solves the city’s longtime issues with gun violence.

Speaking at an unrelated event at O’Hare International Airport, the mayor told reporters he was not present at the Sunday news conference where CPD Superintendent Larry Snelling spoke on the fatal shooting because he was meeting with the fallen officer’s family.

Chicago police release photos of suspect wanted in killing of Officer Luis Huesca

“To see one of our fallen officers’ body lay as the family was preparing to go into the morgue, it’s one of the most difficult things that I’ve ever done,” Johnson said. “I show up every single day for the people of Chicago. And I know that people know that, and I know the family knows that.”

His remarks came on the heels of the early Sunday shooting of Huesca as the six-year veteran of the Police Department was heading home from his CPD shift. The off-duty cop, just two days shy of his 31st birthday, was the first Chicago police officer slain in just under a year and the first instance of an officer killed since Johnson assumed office last May.

Just before 3 a.m. Sunday, Chicago police responded to a “gunshot detection alert” in the 5500 block of South Kedzie Avenue and discovered Huesca with multiple gunshot wounds in the 3100 block of West 56th Street. He was pronounced dead at University of Chicago Medical Center. His vehicle was stolen at the scene, police said.

On Monday, the mayor stressed that “we are not defined by these tragedies” and vowed to continue his mission to make the city safer by dealing with the problems that underpin crime. However, he did not directly address questions about the role that one controversial tool — the ShotSpotter gunshot technology — played in the response to Huesca’s shooting.

“Our Police Department has the tools that it needs to help us build a better, stronger, safer Chicago,” Johnson said. “And as I’ve said repeatedly, it can’t be policing alone. That’s a failed strategy. That is what previous administrations have relied upon.”

The progressive mayor, who ran on a platform of tackling the city’s stubborn crime issue by addressing the “root causes” of violence, then touted statistics of homicides and shootings trending down so far in 2024 and ended on a note of looking ahead: “We will be defined ultimately how we respond to the needs of the people.”

Earlier this year, Johnson announced the city would wind down its use of ShotSpotter, now rebranded SoundThinking, this fall following the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, to heavy pushback from a contingent of aldermen who say it saves shooting victims’ lives. The mayor’s announcement fulfilled his campaign promise last year to end the ShotSpotter contract following scrutiny of the technology, which activists said leads to over-policing of Black and Latino neighborhoods.

Huesca’s slaying comes at an already tense moment for Chicago police and the department’s relationship with the mayor’s office. Just one month ago, 26-year-old Dexter Reed was killed in a shootout with CPD officers in Humboldt Park that became widely publicized this month after body-camera footage was released. Johnson has to try to balance the concerns of residents calling for more police accountability and those who are pro-law enforcement, as both groups say they don’t think their perspective is being taken seriously enough in the debate over public safety in Chicago.

Huesca’s death comes about a year after a pair of separate CPD slayings that left the department reeling. Last year, Officer Andrés Vásquez Lasso, 32, was fatally shot while responding to a domestic incident in Gage Park in March. In May 2023, Officer Aréanah Preston, 24, who was assigned to the Calumet District station, was shot and killed as she returned home after a night shift.

Huesca was friends with Vásquez Lasso and called him “one of those guys that actually deserved this star” in a remembrance video.