Defense mechanism

The victim of a Wicker Park attack launches her own investigation-and gets results.

Jessica makes her living shaping eyebrows at a salon and serving drinks at a nightclub. But for the past three months, fed up with what she describes as police ineptitude, she’s also been an amateur detective, investigating her own assault outside of a Wicker Park bar.

On May 13, after finishing a late shift, 29-year-old Jessica (TOC chose not to publish her last name) met her friend Damon for a nightcap at Flat Iron, the popular 4am bar just south of the Milwaukee-Damen-North intersection. Two drinks later, shortly after 3am, Jessica and Damon went outside to smoke a cigarette and saw three men trailing a petite blond woman on Milwaukee Avenue. “They were calling her a bitch and harassing her,” Jessica says. “I made eye contact with her and got this feeling that something bad was going to happen if I didn’t say anything. As they walked by, I blurted out, ‘Leave her alone.’”

That’s when Jessica says the men turned their attention on her. “They started being very aggressive, calling me a ‘fucking bitch.’ Damon said, ‘Hey, you don’t have to call her that.’ And the guys just jumped him.”

She says the men threw Damon, 29, to the ground, kicking him in the chest and head. Jessica, who has a full sleeve of tattoos on her left arm and self-identifies as “a pretty tough cookie,” jumped in, which allowed Damon to run across the street. One of the men punched Jessica several times in the body, head and face. Jessica says her attacker then stole the $60 she made in tips that night and fled on foot with the other two men. Jessica and Damon waited in the Flat Iron for police to arrive.

Jessica awoke feeling terrible. “I had bruises on my breasts,” she says. A hospital visit revealed she also had a concussion. In the months following, Jessica says she’s suffered panic attacks. The North Side resident hired a personal trainer to school her in self-defense. And, feeling police weren’t tenaciously pursuing her attacker, she’s been playing gumshoe for her own case.

A couple of weeks after the attack and no word from the detective assigned to her case, Jessica had to file a new police report after authorities couldn’t locate the original. “Pissed off,” Jessica returned to the Flat Iron to question workers. A couple of employees knew her attacker as a regular at the bar and other nearby watering holes. (Flat Iron manager Ed Sanders tells us the man has been “banned for life.”) Jessica obtained his name, nickname and the names of a couple of bars he frequents, which she staked out, grilling people who identify as her attacker’s friends.

Some googling turned up her attacker’s Facebook and MySpace pages. She also found a website for a local hip-hop crew, full of YouTube videos, some of which feature him. In each video, the crew’s contact number flashes across the screen. “I’ve given [the detective] all this information. It’s like, ‘Look, cops, there’s a video of him. There’s his face. Find him!’”

Last Friday, shortly before this story went to print, an elated Jessica called with an update: Her sleuthing had paid off. Based on the name she’d provided, the detective pulled up her attacker’s address and mug shot, which Jessica picked out of a lineup of six photos. “She identified the attacker today,” police spokesman Roderick Drew says, “so we will be actively looking for this person and an investigative alert will be issued later today for the suspect.”

“He messed with the wrong person,” Jessica says. “If I didn’t spend hours on my case, I don’t think anything would’ve happened. It probably would’ve been a file that sat in a drawer.”

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