Some Evanston residents say they received limited city communication during Clark Street Beach shooting


Seeger Gray/Daily Senior Staffer

People gather and walk on Chicago Avenue in downtown Evanston on Thursday, April 13, 2023. Two restaurant owners on the block said they received limited communication regarding the nearby Clark Street Beach shooting on Wednesday.

Aviva Bechky, Print Managing Editor

Content warning: This article contains mentions of gun violence and death.

At about 8:10 p.m. on Wednesday, Evanston Police Department first responded to reports of shots on Clark Street Beach. 

The department posted periodic updates on their Twitter account as police responded and secured the scene. But the city didn’t send texts or emails to residents regarding the shooting until Thursday at 2:35 p.m., when EPD emailed an update.

Evanston is now mourning the loss of one teenager in the shooting, and the injury of two others. Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) said she wants to offer sincere condolences to those impacted by the “devastating loss” that took place Wednesday. 

The family of the deceased has yet to speak publicly and are likely in shock, according to someone familiar with the family.

Kelly said she wants to focus on supporting and reaching out to youth who are most vulnerable. She also said she’d like to respond to the “handful” of residents who reached out to her on Wednesday and Thursday, regarding communications or lack thereof from the city about the shooting. 

“I think we can do it a little better, make it more accessible,” Kelly said.

EPD Cmdr. Ryan Glew said that EPD elected not to send a citywide alert through the Everbridge system because the shooting resulted from a personal dispute, leading the department to determine that others in the area were not at risk.

“We want to be careful that we would not use a shelter-in-place when it’s not necessary and then over time, create a fatigue to shelter-in-place,” Glew said. Shelters-in-place can happen in situations including emergency weather conditions and active shooter events, he said.

While Evanston residents were not instructed to shelter-in-place, nearby Northwestern began communicating on their main Twitter account at 8:42 p.m. and sent out text and email alerts to University community members advising a shelter-in-place shortly thereafter.

EPD began posting information about the shooting on their Twitter account at 8:53 p.m. and added in a separate tweet that “there does not appear to be a continued threat” at 9:08 p.m., though no suspects were in custody.

But some residents said they didn’t see EPD’s social media notifications. Several Evanston said they learned about the shooting from NU students rather than the city.

Rachel Goldsmith, a city resident, said she thinks she saw the news from NU Students Demand Action’s Instagram account. Pono Ono Poke manager Tyler Shields said he heard about the shooting from students in his restaurant. Prairie Moon owner and operator Robert Strom said he heard from a student employee.

“We have other alert systems in place for weather and fricking snow emergencies,” Goldsmith said. “At this point, it might make sense to consider how we react more quickly to keep people safe if a situation is not under control.”

Shields said Pono Ono — a restaurant three minutes away by car from Clark Street Beach — was in the middle of its dinner rush, so staff weren’t checking their phones. He suggested the implementation of vibrating phone alerts, similar to emergency weather notifications, though he did worry they could cause some panic.

Strom said he closed Prairie Moon’s outdoor patio across the street from Pono Ono when an employee told him about the shooting. He waited for more reports to reopen the patio, but “nothing really came through.”

“Being so close to it, I feel like a little bit more would have been helpful,” Strom said. “In the moment, you know, you need to take care of the real emergency.”

In response to a question from The Daily, Mayor Daniel Biss said he thought the city’s communication as of Thursday afternoon was sufficient and adequate.

Kelly said she wanted to commend EPD and City Manager Luke Stowe for their response, including their communication with residents via social media.

Going forward, Kelly said she’s interested in setting up new sources of information. Hypothetically, she said she’d like to create an automated response to 311 calls in crises, so everyone who calls can immediately hear a message about the current state of an emergency. 

She also said the city could add a banner to the City of Evanston website in cases of emergency.

Goldsmith said the confusion she felt around the Wednesday shooting reminded her of a March incident that caused a soft lockdown in schools across the city, including her son’s.

Vagueness in communications — like in March and this week — creates a “fertile ground” for people to make guesses or play telephone, Goldsmith said. When initial reports of the Wednesday shooting began circulating, Goldsmith said she initially heard it took place at a different beach nearer her home.

Going forward, she said she’d like to see residents receive enough information to make their own choices regarding safety.

“I hope that the school, I hope that the city is taking all of our safety really seriously and thinking about comprehensive ways to keep us safe,” Goldsmith said.

Shannon Tyler contributed reporting.

On campus, NU students can find mental health support via Counseling and Psychological Services in person and 24/7 virtual support via TimelyCare. University employees can also access the 24/7 Employee Assistance Program. Evanston residents can access support through Trilogy Behavioral Healthcare’s Crisis Line, 800FACT400, Call4Calm’s text line 552020, or by calling 988.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @avivabechky

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