The off-duty shooting of Chicago Police Officer Aréanah Preston has sent shockwaves throughout the city and beyond.
Preston, 24, who had recently earned a master’s degree in child and family law from Loyola University Chicago, was tragically gunned down in the Avalon Park neighborhood in the early morning hours of May 6.
According the Chicago Police Department, she had just finished her shift at the Calumet District station on the city’s South Side and was leaving the station when she was shot multiple times. She was still in her uniform.
Police responded to ShotSpotter calls at a quarter to 2 a.m. in the 8100 block of South Blackstone Avenue and located the officer, but she was already dead.
The responding officer’s communication with 9-1-1 dispatchers was later released to the media.
“495: emergency, emergency! 81st and Blackstone we got a person shot — it’s an off-duty po! Get an ambulance here now!” the officer said. “Squad, it’s not looking good — get an ambulance here now!”
Preston’s death is a devastating loss for her family, friends and colleagues, who described her as “intelligent,” “happy” and “the life of everything.”
Her academic interests ranged from restorative justice and trauma in incarcerated populations to diversity in law enforcement and police brutality, and she was deeply committed to making a positive difference in her community.
According to a former professor, Charles Bell, who had taught her at Illinois State University, Preston was “very vocal” about the challenges facing policing and mass incarceration and was “deeply passionate” about making a difference.
Preston had attended a panel discussion that included formerly incarcerated individuals, which Bell led, and was interviewed about it for the university newspaper.
“I was able to learn firsthand the problems that many of our incarcerated population goes through outside of the standard textbook curriculum,” Preston was quoted saying.
Despite the challenges facing law enforcement, Preston was determined to use her position as a police officer to build trust between underrepresented communities and the police. She believed that she could be “a person to fight for justice,” as she put it in an interview in 2021.
In a news conference, interim Chicago Police Superintendent Eric Carter asked the community to “to keep the officer and her family in your prayers, as well as the men and women of the Chicago Police Department, who sacrifice everything — including their lives.”
Outgoing Mayor Lori Lightfoot also responded to the tragic incident. “It’s unfortunate that we’re standing here again today to talk about another tragedy that has befallen one of our bravest citizens,” she said. “I had an opportunity to speak with the family of this officer, who as you might imagine is completely shattered. … No mother wants to wake up to the tragic news that their child is dead. And dead to something as awful and tragic as gunfire.”
Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson called the tragedy “profound” and prayed for justice. “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,” he said in a statement. “I pray that her killer is apprehended quickly so that justice may be served.”
Johnson also took the opportunity to address Chicago’s public safety crisis, promising to protect Chicago citizens.
Tom Ahern, deputy director of police news affairs, tweeted: “Our hearts are broken once again. The Chicago Police Department and the city of Chicago tragically lost one of our own. Our officer was fatally shot while returning home from her tour of duty earlier this morning.”
At the time of this writing, four people have been arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the killing of Preston.