By Ray O’Hanlon
The family of Irish university student Natasha McShane, who was brutally attacked by a baseball bat-wielding mugger in Chicago last Friday, have flown to the city to be at her side.
And at presstime, the Chicago Sun Times was reporting that police had arrested two people, a man and a woman, in connection with the attack.
McShane (23) is in critical condition and in a medically induced coma after the attack which also saw her friend, Stacy Jurich, beaten into unconsciousness, this as the two women were walking home in the upscale Bucktown area of the city.
In the aftermath, Chicago police had mounted a full scale search for the assailant who attacked the two young women with an aluminum bat.
And the Irish community in the city has rallied behind the family of the Armagh woman who is a University College Dublin postgraduate student attending the University of Illinois in Chicago, where she was studying urban planning and public affairs. Natasha has, as part of her studies, raised money to help build homes for the poor in the Dominican Republic.
Natasha, who is from Silverbridge, County Armagh, was also working part-time in a local bar, Butch McGuire’s. Staff and patrons have been raising funds since the attack the help defray the costs of family members who have arrived in the city.
Students at the University of Illinois, where Natasha McShane is on an exchange program, have also rallied to the family’s aid.
The Irish Consulate in the city is also providing assistance to Natasha’s parents, Sheila and Liam, who have been at their daughter’s bedside since flying into Chicago over the weekend. Other family and friends have flown in from New York and Australia, according to reports.
The attack, which took place at an underpass close to railroad tracks on the 1800 block of North Damen Avenue in the early hours of Friday morning, has made headlines even in a city lately plagued by a rash of murders so worrying that it has prompted calls for National Guard troops to be placed on duty in certain areas.
Bucktown, however, is not such an area. It is located to the northwest of Chicago’s famed Loop and is a relatively low crime neighborhood.
Since the attack, Stacy Jurich, who is 24, has recovered consciousness but is still seriously ill. Both women are hospitalized in Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center.
Natasha, who is the eldest of five children, has been living in Chicago since January. She had been out celebrating the news that she had secured an internship, one that would extend her stay in Chicago, when the attack occurred.
“The area where it happened has a lot of bars and restaurants and people hanging around at that time of night. There are predators there that prey on people on a night out. There are robberies every few weeks,” a Chicago Police Department spokesman said.
“That was just a sick crime. There was no reason for that type of violence at all,” said Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis.
The attacker repeatedly struck both women in the savage attack and fled with their pocketbooks.
The Chicago Tribune reported that one woman, believed to be Jurich, was able to give police a description of the attacker before she fell unconscious. This may have been crucial in the light of Tuesday’s arrests in the case.
Reports indicate that McShane has been undergoing emergency trauma treatment to relieve swelling around her brain.