Normally soft spoken, Oak Park Police Chief Shatonya Johnson vehemently defended the village’s new 24-hour gas station ban during an Oct. 25 public hearing on the ordinance. Unlike her predecessor, LaDon Reynolds who seldom spoke publicly about policing issues, Johnson’s speech was laden with the force of her conviction that safety should always trump the monetary.
“We have to say enough is enough, and we definitely have to consider the safety of the residents over financial gain,” said Johnson.
The newly appointed chief detailed the harrowing criminal instances that have been perpetrated at five of the eight 24-hour gas stations in Oak Park as far back as Jan. 1, 2019 and as recently as this year. The incidents she recounted included armed robberies, car jackings and shootings. One instance, which took place just over two years ago, involved the Sept. 2020 beating of a man experiencing homelessness at the BP station at 520 S. Austin Blvd.
The man had been sleeping on the side of the building when, at about 1:20 a.m, he was approached by another person who verbally assaulted him and demanded he turn over his wallet. The offender then “proceeded to beat [the victim] in the face with his hands and his feet,” according to Johnson.
Less than a month after that, a man was shot in his abdomen at the same gas station on Oct. 4, 2020. The man had been changing his tire at approximately 1:20 a.m., when he was caught in the crossfire of a shootout between three individuals.
Johnson rounded up the list of violent crimes perpetrated at 24-hour gas stations with the tragic murder of 18-year-old Jailyn Logan-Bledsoe, which occurred last June at a different BP gas station, one located at 100 Chicago Ave. The teenager’s murder spurred the village to enact the ordinance.
The police chief’s voice was choked with emotion as she asked for a moment to collect herself, telling the board that she had been working with Logan-Bledsoe’s mother. After a few seconds, Johnson continued, sharing what happened in the final minutes of Logan-Bledsoe’s life.
The teenager had gone into the gas station to buy a soft drink at 1:52 a.m., June 22. She was followed out by two other people.
“And without an opportunity to comply, they shot her in the head and took her car,” said Johnson.
The two people, a brother and sister, were later identified and arrested. They both have been charged with first degree murder for the death of Logan-Bledsoe.
“This young lady did not deserve her fate,” said Johnson.