Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy was “cracking jokes” not long after undergoing a medical procedure to unblock his arteries Thursday at a downtown hospital, his second-in command said, but the department disclosed scant details about what happened.
The department issued a brief statement that said little beyond the fact that McCarthy, 55, had taken himself to the hospital early in the morning and was expected to remain there for several days after undergoing “a common procedure to address blockage in his arteries.”
“The procedure went well,” the statement said.
In an interview, McCarthy’s spokesman, Adam Collins, said McCarthy did not suffer a heart attack but did not give any further details about the procedure..
A police source confirmed that McCarthy had angioplasty after it was determined one artery was completely blocked and another was 80 percent blocked. He was expected to have a full recovery.
Northwestern Memorial Hospital later confirmed McCarthy was a patient but referred all other questions to Collins.
During an afternoon visit at the hospital, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said McCarthy was watching the White Sox on TV and in good spirits.
Asked if he had any concerns about McCarthy returning to his high-pressured job, Emanuel quipped, “I’m a spin doctor, not a medical doctor.”
At another appearance, Emanuel told reporters that during his visit, McCarthy was "getting briefed by members of the police department about things going on. So, he's all there."
McCarthy had been scheduled to speak at a news conference, but First Deputy Superintendent Alfonza Wysinger filled in. As second-in-command, he will run the department until McCarthy returns.
“He’s alert. He’s awake. He’s in good spirits,” Wysinger told reporters. “Anybody that knows Superintendent McCarthy knows that he’s a joker. He was actually up cracking jokes.”
McCarthy’s absence comes at an inopportune time for the department, the start of hot summer weather that produces the most violence of the year.
Emanuel appointed McCarthy as his top cop after his election as mayor in 2011. McCarthy had run the Newark Police Department since 2006 following nearly three decades working his way up the ranks in the New York Police Department.
In 2012 McCarthy earned praise for the department’s response to widespread protests at the NATO summit in Chicago, joining officers in the trenches during a violent street confrontation.
But as that year wore on, McCarthy took increasing heat as violence in Chicago became a national story. By the end of 2012, homicides topped 500 for the first time since 2008.
But homicides and shootings fell sharply last year. However, Chicago continued to draw unwanted attention for its random violence, particularly with the fatal shooting of Hadiya Pendleton, 15, a high school honor student, about a mile from President Barack Obama’s Kenwood home just days after performing in inaugural festivities near Washington
McCarthy’s heart scare wasn’t the first time he had been hospitalized during his time in Chicago. McCarthy, who played linebacker on a NYPD football squad, underwent back surgery last year.
Wysinger said McCarthy was eager to return to work, maybe too eager.
“I think the hardest part about this whole thing will be trying to keep him from coming back to work,” Wysinger said. “He’s doing very well. He wants to come back in a couple days, but that’s actually going to be up to his doctors.”
Tribune reporters Hal Dardick, Bill Ruthhart and Mitch Smith contributed.Copyright © 2015, RedEye