As real estate broker Gary Dailey made his way through the throngs of people gathered on the Gold Coast lakefront Thursday night to enjoy the fireworks, what was initially all about families, children and the Fourth of July changed into something else.
Dailey, 51, on his way to meet his girlfriend near a "quiet crowd" of children and adults, was confronted with something less quiet — a large, noisy group of individuals crowded into the center of a tunnel that led under Lake Shore Drive near Division Street.
"They were screaming and yelling and scaring everybody," Dailey said, indicating that there was a crowd of about 40 people backed up while the rowdy group was "roughhousing" in the center of the tunnel.
Dailey said he hesitated "for about a half a second" and thought about going up to the next crossing at Oak Street, but decided against it and kept making his way through.
One of the rowdies tried to take his cellphone, but he "slapped his hand down." Then he heard a woman behind him scream and turned to look, seeing a woman with a child about 12 to 14 feet behind him who was being accosted by a man wearing a red shirt.
"The gentleman in question grabbed her hand and was kind of twisting it," Dailey said.
The woman screamed, "You (expletive), you're stealing my phone" before throwing a water bottle at the man and taking off after him as he ran away with her phone, a police report on the incident said.
The red-shirted man headed in Dailey's direction with the woman in pursuit until someone else — an unknown co-offender, according to the police report — tripped her, Dailey and police said.
"He started running toward me and he ran up to the stairs and I decided I was sick of it," Dailey said.
So he said he sprinted after the man, chasing him for three or four blocks before the man, about 35 feet in front of him, turned around and headed back toward Dailey.
Dailey said he then saw numerous police cars and sirens at the corner of Division and Lake Shore Drive responding to reports of the incidents in the underpass. Police soon apprehended the man in the 1200 block of North Lake Shore Drive, and 18-year-old Quejuan Henley, of the 1300 block of East 72nd Place, was later charged with robbery in the incident, police said.
After identifying the man for officers on the scene, Dailey said one officer spoke to him: "I have someone I want you to meet."
That someone, the 41-year-old woman whose phone had been taken, was appreciative, Dailey said, and hugged him and shook his hand.
"She said, 'Oh my gosh you're so nice, thanks so much for chasing him,'" Dailey said.
Another man found the woman's phone, which ended up with a cracked screen, and gave it back to her. She suffered minor injuries, scrapes to her right knee and left wrist, after being tripped and was not hospitalized.
"She was a super nice lady, really grateful. It was uncomfortable that this happened to her, but she got (the phone) back," Dailey said.
Dailey said he has done something like this at least once before, when he saw a woman he thought was in trouble.
"My mom always taught me that men are supposed to defend women, children, the weak, and I was born and raised in Chicago," Dailey said. "I feel lucky."
Dailey said he was glad he intervened and said even his brother, a Chicago police officer, was impressed.
"It felt good."
Henley was ordered held in lieu of $50,000 bail in a hearing before Criminal Court Judge Israel Desierto on Saturday.
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