Gunfire from robbery during drug deal hits 2 ‘unintended targets’ near Theater District, including a ‘Moulin Rouge!’ stagehand

Stray bullets from a robbery during a drug deal wounded two people in the Loop over the weekend, including a longtime stagehand who was scheduled to work on a performance of “Moulin Rouge!” that was later canceled, police and witnesses said.

After the 5 p.m. shooting in an alley in the 100 block of North Wabash Street, the Sunday evening performance of the musical at the nearby Nederlander Theatre was called off.

Ryan Bush, a stagehand at the Nederlander, said in an interview with the Sun-Times Monday that he was with his coworker when the “frightening” incident unfolded.

“My buddy ended up getting in the crossfire,” he said.

Police said both victims were “unintended targets” of the shooting, that apparently stemmed from a drug deal between two groups of people at a nearby Taco Bell, police said. An argument broke out and someone “implied a weapon” and robbed the others, officials said.

The victims of that robbery then chased the offenders into an alley near the Chicago Theatre.

“The people who were robbed took out a firearm and started discharging at the individuals who took something from them,” Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan said at a Monday news conference.

Bush said he and his co-worker had gone out to grab dinner between matinee and evening performances at the Nederlander when they heard gunfire and ducked.

“There was two guys running down the alley, running westbound toward State Street and somebody was shooting at them,” he told the Sun-Times.

But Bush’s fellow stagehand — a 55-year-old from Elmhurst — couldn’t avoid the bullets and was struck in the right ear, police reports said. Bush said the bullet also pierced his friend’s neck.

Another witness, a bartender from the Chicago Theatre, also told officers that he saw three males running through the alley when he heard a pair of “pops,” leading the bartender to hide between trash cans, according to the reports. He then saw someone fire a handgun twice.

The second gunshot victim, a 27-year-old man from Gold Coast, was found with a wound to the hand, the reports state. He told officers he was walking with his girlfriend when he was struck.

Both victims were taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in fair condition, police said. Neither saw the shooter, who later ditched his jacket near the State/Lake Red Line stop, according to a police report.

No arrests were reported. Deenihan told reporters police were reviewing video on where “both groups went.”

Bush, a longtime stagehand who lives in northwest Indiana, said it was a relief to get a text message from his co-worker early Monday saying he was “doing better” after being discharged from Northwestern.

“That’s my number one guy there. He’s a great guy, stage hand, been in the business for 30+ years,” Bush said, adding that his co-worker is a grandfather “just looking to retire.”

The shooting wasn’t specifically given as the reason for canceling Sunday evening’s performance of “Moulin Rouge!” An official statement attributed it to “disturbance.”

Police said they deployed additional resources to the Theater District.

“We will continue to monitor the area and work closely with the Cook County sheriff’s police to enhance safety in our Theater District,” the department said in a statement.

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