Hancock unit owners hear harrowing details of gunshot on 57th floor
Loop North News

CONDOMINIUM LIFESTYLE 175 E Delaware Pl - MAP

16-Feb-21 – A gunshot heard on the 57th floor of John Hancock Center on January 29 left two bullet holes inside a condo unit and a condo association scrambling to get information to frightened owners.

At about 8:00 p.m., a resident of a unit on the 57th floor called down to the building’s doorman to report “a loud noise” the resident believed was a gunshot. When maintenance workers arrived at the unit, they found bullet holes in two walls.

At an emergency meeting of 175 East Delaware Place Homeowner Association on February 8, property manager Jennie Kobzarev gave a detailed report on the incident. She said when police arrived at the Hancock Center residences at 8:19 p.m., they first met with the residents of the unit in the lobby and then went up to the unit with the building’s chief engineer and a maintenance worker.

Photo by Steven Dahlman

Paramedics arrived at 9:15 p.m., though there were no reports of any injuries. At 9:23 p.m., the Chicago Police Department’s SWAT team arrived.

(Left) Residential lobby of 175 East Delaware Place on the north side of John Hancock Center.

Kobzarev, a vice president of Sudler Management Company, says she kept in touch with police, management of Hancock Center’s commercial property, and the commercial property’s chief of security, who was at the building at the time of the incident.

She says residential management offered to let police into the unit where the gun was fired, but they declined, choosing instead to wait four hours for a search warrant. When the SWAT team finally entered the unit, the occupant was no longer there. Surveillance video was found, showing the suspected shooter leaving the building through a loading dock soon after the gun was fired.

Residents were notified of the incident at 10:28 p.m. by email and automated telephone messages.

“I was hesitant to give wrong information,” said Kobzarev (right) at the meeting. “In retrospect now, I wish we had sent the first notice earlier because I started getting emails from the residents asking what was happening.”

She says police remained at Hancock Center until about 1:30 a.m.

Jennie Kobzarev

Suspect’s key fob not deactivated

Kobzarev says building personnel have been checking every day to see if the shooter’s key fob has been used but they are not allowed to deactivate it.

According to the condo association’s attorney, the unit from which the gunshot originated was occupied at the time of the incident by someone who was not the unit owner.

David Sugar

“The owner of the unit determines whether or not the key fob – the access fob – is to be deactivated,” said David Sugar (left), a partner at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr. “It is not within the purview of the association to deactivate a fob when the owner of a particular unit says no, do not deactivate the fob. In this instance, the owner of the unit specifically directed management not to deactivate the fob. So that is why the fob for this unit remains active.”

Sugar reassured unit owners that “the door staff have been notified and alerted to contact the police if this particular individual returns to the building and is seen.”

The condo association then voted on whether to file for eviction of the occupant of the unit but the motion failed.

Unit owners request resignation of HOA president

The incident has left some residents wondering if their condo association could have done more to inform and reassure residents.

Four unit owners wrote to Barry Bowen on February 5, asking him to resign as president of 175 East Delaware Place Homeowner Association.

“The upsetting events of January 29 and 30 have highlighted the inadequacy of your continued role in the leadership of our HOA,” read the letter.

They say Bowen has failed to implement their City of Chicago Emergency Preparedness for High Rise Buildings procedure plan. For a Category 1 high-rise building such as John Hancock Center, that would include safety drills twice a year under the supervision of a certified Fire Safety Director.

Photo by Steven Dahlman

“Those of us who live in the building have not received guidance on emergency evacuation,” wrote unit owners Kathy Gregg, Michael Gregg, Thomas Jenkins, and Dennis Kmetz.

The group also expressed concern about Bowen not residing at John Hancock Center. They say Bowen, who lives in Winnetka, was not at the building as the incident unfolded.

“The full-time residence of the president is both a practical and cultural necessity,” they wrote. “Clearly, you regard 175 East Delaware Place as a hobby or an investment, not as your home.”

Bowen responded to similar concerns expressed at the condo board meeting three days later.

Barry Bowen

“I reiterate that as board president – or we as board members – have no role in an emergency situation,” said Bowen (left). “The board sets policy and works with management to implement policy but management manages the building. Management manages situations. It’s not the board’s or my role to be involved in that. We have a professional management company that takes care of that.”

The owners also complained about police officers not wearing face masks in elevators and common areas of the residential building on the night of the incident. Kobzarev acknowledged this during the February 8 meeting and said she had shared the concern with 18th district police commander Jill Stevens.

By Steven Dahlman | Loop North News | sdahlman@loopnorth.com

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