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By Will Racke
Chicago Police believe members of the notorious Mexican street gang La Raza used an AR-style rifle to carry out a brazen attack on Tuesday that left two plainclothes officers wounded and touched off a citywide manhunt.
Gunmen shot up an unmarked police van with a handgun and a .223 caliber rifle, most likely an AR-15, department sources told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Police say both officers were shot with a “high-powered weapon” — one in the hip and arm and the other in the back. The officers were released from Stroger Hospital on Wednesday after receiving treatment for non-life threatening wounds.
“It’s a miracle the officers are still alive,” said police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.
The pair were investigating a prior gang-related shooting in the city’s Back of The Yards neighborhood on Tuesday night when two cars pulled up alongside the police van, according to police. Without warning, occupants of those vehicles fired “indiscriminately” into the van before speeding away.
The shooting sparked a frantic search for the assailants, believed to be La Raza members prowling in rival gang territory. Police recovered a rifle and a handgun from an abandoned Chrysler minivan thought to be one of the vehicles used in the attack, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Investigators are currently questioning three “persons of interest” and are searching for two additional suspects. It is unclear whether the officers were the target of a planned attack or randomly targeted.
“It’s just another example of how dangerous this job is,” Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said at a press conference on Wednesday. “And I think people take it for granted that when police officers come to work every day, they put their lives on the line every single day they get in their car.”
Warring Hispanic gangs in the violent Back of the Yards neighborhood are increasingly making rifles their weapon of choice, reports the Tribune. Between the summer of 2016 and February, more than 30 shootings using semi-automatic rifles occurred there and in neighboring Brighton Park
At least 46 people were shot in those attacks, 13 fatally.