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Archive for Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Gunman may have targeted women at Illinois store

February 6, 2008

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— The killer of five women at a Lane Bryant store in Tinley Park made sexual advances on at least one of the victims before the slayings and may have targeted a women's shop to avoid confrontation with men, a source said.

The gunman entered the store after 10 a.m. Saturday and chatted briefly with some of the victims before announcing a holdup, and may have initially feigned that he was making a delivery, sources said.

He then took the women to a back room and bound them with duct tape he had brought with him, a law-enforcement source said. He said that before the shooting began, the man made advances toward one or more of the women.

Four shoppers and the store manager died at the scene. A sixth woman, an employee, was shot in the neck but survived to tell police what happened.

On Tuesday, Tinley Park police finally acknowledged after two days that there was a sixth victim of the shooting who survived. When asked by a reporter at an 11 a.m. media conference about the condition of that victim, Cmdr. Rick Bruno said, "She is being interviewed by investigators."

Bruno reiterated that police are following leads to track down the gunman and said investigators have received more than 90 tips on a special hot line, (708) 444-5394. He also said police are asking area beauty salons and barber shops that bead hair to review their client lists for someone matching the gunman's description.

Will County Coroner Patrick K. O'Neil would not comment on whether DNA evidence from the gunman was recovered from the victims, but said that "all the necessary precautions were taken" during the autopsies. He would not disclose whether any of the victims were beaten or whether there was evidence of blunt trauma.

Area police agencies were asked to check their reports for similar cases where a robber claimed to be a delivery person, where victims were bound with duct tape and put face down on the floor, or cases where sexual advances were made toward the victim, according to a source.

At a news conference Monday outside Tinley Park police headquarters, Sgt. T.J. Grady described the gunman as black with a medium complexion, dressed in black jeans with embroidery and rhinestone decorations on the back pocket, a dark-colored jacket and a charcoal-gray knit cap.

He said the man was clean-shaven and well-groomed, with thick braids pulled back under his cap except for one that hung down the right side of his face and sported four green beads. The man appeared to be 25 to 35 years old, between 5 feet 8 inches and 5 feet 10 inches and 230 to 260 pounds.

"Based on the height and weight, he's probably a little pudgy," Grady said.

While the Lane Bryant store was not equipped with security cameras, Grady said that police had gathered "an abundance" of security video from other locations and were sifting through images for clues about the attacker and a red vehicle that was allegedly seen in the area at the time of the shooting.

The FBI was assisting with the investigation, said spokesman Ross Rice. He would not describe what help the agency was providing. Also, Geoff Shank, commander of the U.S. marshals' fugitive task force, said his team was contacted by investigators Saturday and was standing by to pick up suspects or persons of interest.

The lone survivor, a 33-year-old south suburban woman who is not being identified by the Tribune, was in protective custody, according to her relatives. They declined to comment on Saturday's attack and said all communication with the woman, even calls to her cell phone, had been cut off by police.

The woman's sister, who lived in Tinley Park, was also in protective custody, they said.

Her relatives said they believed divine intervention saved the woman, a devout Christian who grew up in the south suburbs and was studying to become a nurse.

The survivor's family has been active for years at a Will County church. A sister and her husband are missionaries in rural Alaska.

The pastor of the church mentioned the shooting in his Sunday sermon on praising God in all circumstances, church members said.

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