Chicago, IL – At least five suspects have been arrested in connection with the murder of Chicago Police Officer Areanah Preston after an armed standoff with police late Sunday night.
Officer Preston, 24, was gunned down outside her home in the Avalon Park neighborhood after she finished up her shift in the early-morning hours of May 6.
A source with knowledge about the arrests said four of the unnamed suspects were apprehended late Sunday night after a standoff with police at a residence located in the 7600-block of South Bishop Street in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
A total of five people were in custody by Monday night, according to CBS News.
Three females and two males have been charged with possession of a stolen vehicle and armed robbery.
Police said a sixth male suspect remained at large, CBS News reported.
The suspects were not immediately charged with Officer Preston’s murder, but a source with knowledge of the investigation said they are all connected to the slaying, according to CBS News.
A law enforcement source told the Chicago Sun-Times that Officer Preston was in the 8100-block of South Blackstone Avenue heading home from work when the attack occurred at approximately 1:45 a.m.
The source said the group of suspects passed by the officer, then circled back.
When they began to approach her, Officer Preston allegedly shot at them, resulting in an exchange of gunfire, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
The young officer was struck at least two times during the shootout.
Police Officer Aréanah M. Preston
End of Watch: May 6, 2023
We join Officer Preston's family and loved ones in mourning the loss of our fallen hero. Our hearts are heavy, but through our grief, we will carry on her legacy of service to Chicago and its people. pic.twitter.com/cZOTrGKZzS
— Chicago Police (@Chicago_Police) May 8, 2023
As she lay dying, the suspects stole her duty weapon and took off, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Chicago police said they responded to the location on the city’s South Side after receiving “shot spotter” notifications, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The initial officer who arrived at the scene found Officer Preston suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.
“Emergency! Emergency!” an officer said over the radio after finding the wounded officer, according to the Chicago Tribune. “Eighty-first and Blackstone – we got a person shot! It’s an off-duty po! Get an ambulance here now!”
“Squad, it’s not looking good — get an ambulance here now!” the officer added a moment later.
He ultimately rushed Officer Preston to University of Chicago Medicine on his own, WFLD reported.
“The officer picked her up, put her in the back of his car, and immediately brought her to U of C hospital where she succumbed to her injuries early this morning,” Chicago Police Department (CPD) Interim Police Superintendent Eric Carter confirmed.
The medical examiner’s office concluded on Sunday she died from multiple gunshot wounds and her death was ruled a homicide, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Sources said at least a portion of the incident was captured by a home security camera, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Investigators were able to track down one of the suspects during a traffic stop.
Four more suspects were arrested after the hours-long armed standoff on South Bishop Street.
Their exact roles in Officer Preston’s murder were not immediately released.
Chicago Police Officer Areanah Preston was shot and killed on her way home from work. We send our love and prayers to her loved ones and her Blue family.
We're told she recently finished her master's degree and is relatively new officer for the Chicago Police… pic.twitter.com/CoOu1FyHJ4
— Irish Angel Inc. (@BlueIrishAngel2) May 6, 2023
According to law enforcement sources, police recovered Officer Preston’s duty weapon during the arrests and also located multiple other firearms, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
At least two of the suspects have been arrested for gun offenses.
A law enforcement source said one of the suspects, a 20-year-old woman, was arrested by a fugitive apprehension team after she allegedly drove a vehicle to steal another car that ended up being used in the shooting, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
That vehicle was later found torched.
The same female suspect was previously charged with misdemeanor domestic battery after she allegedly punched a fellow group home resident and pulled her hair in December of 2021, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
That charge was dropped in February of last year.
A source said the group that attacked Officer Preston was allegedly involved in other recent robberies in the area, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
“In these incidents, the victims exited their vehicles when another unknown vehicle arrived and multiple offenders exited and approached, armed with handguns, and demanded the victim’s property,” Chicago police said in an alert last month, according to the news outlet. “The offenders then returned to their vehicle and fled.”
A neighbor of one of the male suspects who was arrested after the standoff described the 19-year-old man as “a menace,” the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
The neighbor said police come to the suspect’s home at least three times per year, and that he’s always “in and out of jail.”
“He’s a typical thug,” the resident told the Chicago Sun-Times. “There’s always one bad apple, and he was the bad one.”
The 19-year-old suspect was previously arrested in July of 2021 after Chicago police responded to a ShotSpotter alert in Grand Crossing, according to the news outlet.
He was allegedly carrying a firearm equipped with an extended magazine when police located him.
After he was arrested, the suspect allegedly tried to kick one officer and spat on another, but all the charges against him were dropped by November of 2021, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
The same suspect was arrested again less than a week later after he allegedly threw his mother and two televisions down the stairs of their residence in Auburn Gresham.
He also flattened one of the tires on his mother’s vehicle, according to police.
Those charges were all dismissed in December of 2022, but the case was still pending when he was indicted on felony gun charges in June of last year, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
The suspect ultimately pleaded guilty in January to a single count of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon.
He was sentenced to two years of probation and must complete 50 hours of community services.
The same suspect was arrested in September of 2022 after tactical officers found him sleeping beside a “ghost gun” equipped with an extended magazine during a raid, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
But that charge was dropped altogether just two days later.
Another suspect arrested during the armed standoff on South Bishop Street is a 21-year-old female who was arrested in April of 2021 after she was found with a gun in her bedroom without having a valid firearm owners identification card, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
The misdemeanor charge against her was just dropped in January.
The CPD said Officer Preston had just finished up her shift in the Calumet District when the fatal attack occurred.
She served the CPD for three years.
Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara said Officer Preston’s murder will be considered a line-of-duty death by the department, WFLD reported.
Officer Preston recently earned a Masters of Jurisprudence from Loyola University Chicago’s School of Law and would have celebrated her graduation on May 13, according to WLS.
She also held a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and law enforcement administration from Illinois State University (ISU), the Chicago Tribune reported.
Her grandfather, whom she called “Pa Pa,” was preparing to travel to Chicago for the graduation festivities when he received word of his granddaughter’s murder.
“She was intelligent, a happy person… she was all of that and more,” he told the Chicago Tribune. “I can’t speak about her without breaking up.”
Former ISU professor and criminal justice scientist Charles Bell said Officer Preston was someone who understood “the intimate details about what is happening in the community, some of the challenges that are impacting policing and mass incarceration,” the Chicago Tribune reported.
“She was very vocal about that and sharing it with the class and deeply passionate about making a difference,” Bell said. “If you’re interested in making a difference like Areanah was, you’re interested in learning where [crime] starts. And she was really interested in making a difference in the community, going back to Chicago, boots on the ground, helping people.”
The future Chicago cop decided during a two-week trip to Holocaust sites in Poland and Germany that she wanted to become a law enforcement officer, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The trip focused on studying genocide through a criminology lens, according to the paper.
“I know a big thing for our trip was finding voices for those who didn’t have a voice,” Officer Preston said during an interview in 2021, according to the Chicago Tribune. “When I got back, I wanted to be an officer. I felt like I could be a person to fight for justice.”
Chicago Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson said he was devastated to learn of the young officer’s murder.
“I’m outraged and devastated by this horrific violence against a public servant, and I will do everything I can to support her family and the Chicago Police Department through this traumatic time,” Johnson said in a statement late Saturday morning, according to the Chicago Tribune. “I pray that her killer is apprehended quickly so that justice may be served.”