A man being held in connection with the shooting deaths Sunday of a Tinley Park woman and her three adult children had not been charged as of Monday afternoon.
Police would not state his connection to the victims, but described the shootings as the result of a “domestic incident,” and assembled a team for a news conference that included domestic violence experts to help address the issue and prevent violence.
“It’s difficult to process a senseless tragedy like this,” Tinley Park Mayor Mike Glotz said. “This is a difficult day and a stark reminder about how quickly domestic violence can escalate.”
Tinley Park police Chief Thomas Tilton said the investigation continues and “is a very complex process.”
“It takes a long, long time” to complete, Tilton said, saying police expect charges to be approved soon.
The shooting happened in the 7400 block of West 173rd Place at about 11:20 a.m. Sunday. Police were notified when a man at the residence called 911, according to police.
The Cook County medical examiner’s office identified the women as Majeda Kassem, 53, Halema Kassem, 25, Zahia Kassem, 25, and Hanan Kassem, 24. They were pronounced dead at 11:36 a.m., and the medical examiner later listed the cause of death as multiple gunshot wounds.
Itedal Shalabi, co-founder and executive director of Arab American Family Services in Worth, said those slain were Muslim and the family is of Palestinian descent.
She spoke at the news conference alongside Pam Kostecki, executive director of the Crisis Center for South Suburbia in Tinley Park.
“We’re here responding to this incident together,” Shalabi said. “This is a tragedy. This is a tragedy for any community.”
Police said a firearm was recovered and the man surrendered to police without incident, but Tilton would not say what type of gun or offer many details of the crime scene or investigation.
Outside the home where the shootings occurred, Tuiana Brown said Monday she was a classmate of Halema Kassem and both were in their third year of pharmacy school at Chicago State University.
“Halema was the sweetest person, a lovely young girl,” Brown said. “She was very kind, very helpful.”
Brown said she and other classmates gathered outside the home after they learned of Halema’s death.
“It is definitely very devastating,” she said.
Brown said Halema was in an online study group with her and some other students, and that Halema’s mother would pop in from time to time.
“Her mother was very nice,” Brown said.
She said that Halema also has two brothers who lived in the home.
A nearby resident, Anita McKinley, said she did not know the Kassems but that “it is a horrible tragedy, just unthinkable that something like this can happen.”
She said she and her husband were away at church and had gone to lunch.
“When we got back there were all the police cars and we had no idea what might have happened,” she recalled. “I am praying for their family as I can’t imagine what they’re going through.”
Officials said counseling services were being made available to first responders involved in the call, and those who assist victims of domestic violence said that far too often, those who are victims of domestic abuse don’t reach out to get help.
“This was a very traumatic scene for everyone involved,” said Village Manager Pat Carr.
Tilton said the department is fortunate to have professionals on retainer, available to offer counseling to officers, Tilton said.
“We want to make sure their mental health is cared for,” he said.
Kostecki said that violence typically “doesn’t happen without warning,” and victims of domestic violence may often be subjected to ongoing emotional and physical abuse from someone seeking to exert power and control.
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If a firearm is involved there is “500% more chance somebody is going to lose their life,” she said.
Kostecki and Shalabi urged those who are being abused to reach out for help.
“A lot of time it’s shame,” Kostecki said, explaining why women who are being abused don’t seek assistance. “They’re afraid to say someone who I love is hurting me.”
The Arab American Family Services help line is 708-945-7600 and the Crisis Center’s help line is 708-429-7233.
Officials said the village has not seen killings on this scale, as far as number of victims in one location, since the Feb. 2, 2008, slayings of five women and the wounding of a sixth inside a Lane Bryant store.
“It tears open a lot of wounds of what happened 16 years ago,” Carr said.