North Avenue Beach closed after shots fired amid large fight; no injuries reported

Chicago police chase a group of teens who got into a fight at North Avenue Beach Friday afternoon.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Within hours of all 22 of Chicago’s beaches opening on Friday, shots were fired during a large fight at North Avenue Beach, one of the city’s busiest beaches.

No one was struck by the gunfire. About 80 to 100 teenagers were gathered at the beach around 1:30 p.m. when the fight broke out, and one person fired a gun, police said.

A 16-year-old boy was taken into custody, but police said they had not recovered the gun.

The section of North Avenue Beach off North Lake Shore Drive where the shots were fired remained closed for several hours, reopening in the early evening, police said. The bike path remained open.

Bags were being searched Friday at different checkpoints along the beachfront for prohibited items, police said, including weapons and alcohol. Those checkpoints will remain throughout the summer.

Brandon Ellington, Brittany Ball and Miguel Segundo stopped at the beach Friday afternoon, but were kicked off the sand because of the shooting.

“This is my first day off all week, and then I work through the weekend,” Ball said. “This was the one day I had.”

The three friends were excited to enjoy the first weekend for open beaches. “What a way to kick off summer,” Segundo said.

Also hoping to visit the beach on Friday was Mikaylah Willis, in town from St. Louis for the weekend to celebrate her son’s 7th birthday.

Willis said they still plan on spending time at the city’s beaches while they’re in town.

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“It happens, unfortunately. But we’re still going to enjoy our weekend,” Willis said. “[Shootings] just seem to be a part of life now.”

Beachgoers hoping to visit one of Chicago’s beaches this summer can swim from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Labor Day.

Besides the security checks, the Park District is introducing a beach safety ambassadors program this simmer. Thirty ambassadors will be posted at five of Chicago’s busiest beaches to enforce beach rules and help with maintenance, among other duties.

The flag system remains in place at beaches, Tostado said. A red flag means beaches are closed to swimmers, and a green flag means a beach is open for swimming. A yellow flag encourages swimmers to use caution. Friday, the flag was yellow because of low water temperatures, Tostado said.

Kyle Murray, a member of the aquatics lead staff, reminded beachgoers to swim near a lifeguard. 

“We’re here for your safety,” he said.

Last year, 12th Street Beach near Chicago’s Museum Campus was closed due to a shortage of lifeguards. Park District spokesperson Irene Tostado said that beach is open and she is “very optimistic” about filling the staff.

The Park District received around 1,500 lifeguard applications this year, Tostado said, about double the number received last year. A full staff is about 750 lifeguards, she said.

For now, beaches are being staffed by returning guards, said Andy Walsh, the Park District’s manager of beaches and pools. New applicants still must be vetted, and new guards trained and certified.

One of those returning lifeguards is Jenna Keating, who has spent her summers since 2017 working as a lifeguard at North Avenue Beach. She said a lifelong love for swimming and desire to keep people safe has kept her coming back year after year.

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Chicago public pools will open in late June. Last year, only 37 of Chicago’s 77 pools were open because of staffing shortages. Tostado said there was a national lifeguard shortage last year, but numbers seem to be rebounding.

It’s too soon to tell how many pools the Park District will be able to open this year, but Walsh said he is optimistic about being able to open them all.

Last year, the Park District introduced a $600 retention bonus for lifeguards to encourage applications. New incentives for lifeguards to join the staff this year include tickets to see the Chicago Fire play and day passes for Lollapalooza, Tostado said. The Park District will also pay for training and certifications for lifeguards.

A lifeguard stands near police tape used to cordon off a damaged Chicago Park District vehicle at North Avenue Beach Friday after a group of teens fought and shots were fired. No one was injured, police said.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

A man dressed as Spider-Man salutes police officers at North Avenue Beach Friday after shots were fired, prompting the beach’s closure on its opening day.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

A family walks behind police officers called Friday afternoon to North Avenue Beach after shots were fired. No one was injured, according to police.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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