Students disrupt Hyde Park mugging of former Senator

By Kate Shepherd

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary for U of C students Zachary Trayes-Gibson and Rachel McFadden as they walked to a party on South Woodlawn Avenue Friday evening. But before reaching their destination that night, the two students would chase a mugger away from a former U.S. senator and Democratic presidential candidate.

According to third-year Trayes-Gibson, he and first-year McFadden were walking in the vicinity of Hyde Park’s Ray Elementary School when they passed a woman getting out of her car. At the time, they did not recognize her as former senator Carol Moseley Braun (J.D. ’72). By the time they reached the end of the block, they heard screaming.

“We didn’t know what was going on, but she was screaming bloody murder, and we ran towards her,” Gibson said in a phone interview Monday.

Moseley Braun had reportedly seen a man in the alley as she exited her car. As she fumbled with her keys to unlock the front door of her house, the man attacked her, Trayes-Gibson said.

As the students ran to Moseley Braun’s aid, it appeared that the man was punching her. When the attacker saw McFadden and Gibson running toward him, he fled the scene.

McFadden called 911 to report Moseley Braun’s condition. The students stopped to talk to the former senator, who suffered a broken wrist, Trayes-Gibson said.

The attacker bolted eastward on the south side of the street, and Trayes-Gibson ran after him, according to the biology concentrator. The attacker hid among parked cars, came out to the middle of the street, and produced an object that Trayes-Gibson believed was a gun. When he got a better glimpse of the object from where he was standing, he saw it was a three- to four-inch knife.

“After he pulled the knife and came out at me, I took a couple steps backward. He hid among the cars, and I looked back at the Senator to see if she was okay. I was in the same position, and I looked back at him and at her. I was trying to gauge his movement. I saw him out of my peripheral vision. I saw him get into a black SUV, and the brake lights went on instantaneously. Then he peeled off,” Trayes-Gibson said.

From his angle, Trayes-Gibson said he could not tell if the attacker got into the passenger or driver’s seat of the car, or if there was another person in the SUV.

“It’s possible he had someone else in the car. Moseley Braun thinks there was another,” he said.

As of Monday morning, the identity of the attacker was still under investigation, said John Henry of the Chicago Police Department’s News Affairs Office. Henry added that there was no information indicating whether the attack was random or whether Moseley Braun had been targeted. Trayes-Gibson said that both he and Moseley Braun believe the attack was random.

“I’m still alive today thanks to the heroism of these young people,” Moseley Braun said at a Monday press conference.