Chicago police said on Monday they believe a hit-and-run which killed three men was an intentional attack on the crowd outside a gay bar – but that it is too early to judge whether it was a hate crime.
The three young black men – Donald Huey, 25; Jaylen Ausley, 23; and Devonta Vivetter, 27 – were hurled into the air when a sedan smashed into them at high speed in the early hours of Sunday, outside a well-known gay bar in the South Side.
A fourth man was left injured in the crash, which happened as a large group was standing in the road, seemingly arguing.
Brendan Deenihan, chief of detectives, said on Monday the crash is not thought to be an accident, but it wasn’t yet concluded that it was related to their race or sexuality.
‘It appears to be intentional,’ said Deenihan.
‘We don’t have any evidence to support that somebody was trying to harm these individuals based because of their race, religion, etc.
‘That can change once we get more witnesses and a suspect in.’
Ausley had just graduated from the University of Michigan and returned to the South Side to do social work
Donald Huey had decided to leave LA and return home to Chicago for a new job, his sister said
Deenihan said the car was recovered four blocks from the scene, but the driver remains on the run.
‘You can’t charge a car with a crime, obviously,’ he said, appealing for the public’s help.
‘We need to know who the driver was.
‘There were a lot of people out there, a lot of people that were inside the bar prior to this occurring.
‘And we definitely believe that there’s individuals who actually want to give us that information to name a suspect.’
Tributes have been paid to the three men killed in the horrific smash, which was caught on surveillance cameras.
Ausley had just graduated from the University of Michigan, and returned to the South Side to work with disadvantaged young people at the Gary Comer Youth Center, which provides tutoring, job training, career planning and other programs.
‘Many of the kids Jaylen worked with have reached out to express their gratitude and appreciation for Jaylen’s willingness to be a positive mentor in their lives,’ said Project Love Chicago, which is involved in jobs programs, in a statement.
‘We thank you all for your kind words to remind us of the impact he made in such a short time.
‘Jaylen was a light in any room, and his infectious energy will be missed.
‘He was an outstanding young man that had so much ambition, character, humility, love and compassion for his community.
‘He was making great strides as a leader in his community. He had so much ahead of him and so much planned for the future.’
Charna Riley, the sister of Donald Huey, said he had recently announced plans to move back to the Chicago area for a job at a casino.
Huey was living in Los Angeles and working at the front desk of a luxury condominium building.
She told The Chicago Sun Times he loved designing clothes and styling people.
‘He’d tell me this doesn’t look right, that doesn’t stand out enough,’ she said. ‘He would get on me, and that’s what I’ll remember.’
Vivetter’s cousin Anita told ABC 7 the family was devastated.
‘I’ve been crying all day,’ she said. ‘It’s just – I can’t believe it.
‘He didn’t deserve it.
‘And for you to keep going like… This is ridiculous!’
The bar released a statement, mourning the victims.
‘Our hearts are heavy this morning that such a tragic event has occurred,’ said the managers of Jeffrey Pub in a statement.
‘And to those that lost a loved one or friend we stand with you.
‘We always encourage everyone to leave and go to your vehicles right away to make it home safe.’
Dashcam footage caught the scene, with a group standing in the road before, seemingly throwing punches and brawling.
The silver or white sedan can be heard coming before it is seen – its engines revved up as it smashes into the group.
The group of men can be seen in the road, seemingly fighting, before the car smashed into them at 5am on Sunday
The car, believed to be a silver sedan, drove at speed into the group
One man, in a blue sweatshirt, was flung to the right of the vehicle and is believed to have survived the initial impact
The driver sped off, leaving four people in the road
One man, in a blue sweatshirt, is flung to the side and lies on the road, reportedly moving.
The other three are hurled into the air and thrown at speed dozens of feet.
They were pronounced dead on arrival at University of Chicago hospital.
The survivor was taken to Stroger hospital, where his condition was unknown.
Police believe a fifth person may have been struck, and that he or she was taken to a hospital in a private vehicle.
The men can be seen in the middle of the road when the car drove into them at 5am
Graphic images shared online showed the car smashing into the group of men
The car was driven at speed into the group of people