Newborn found dead after being abandoned outside Chicago firehouse

CHICAGO — Authorities are investigating after a newborn boy was found dead Saturday morning in a duffel bag left outside a fire station in Chicago, according to multiple reports.

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Fire department spokesman Larry Merritt and police told the Chicago Tribune that crew members working at a firehouse in the 1000 block of North Orleans Street found the baby after going outside to shovel snow around 5 a.m. He was inside a snow-covered duffel bag, the Tribune reported.

It was not immediately clear how long the infant had been left outside, or whether he was alive when he was placed in the duffel bag.

Authorities are investigating to determine who left the child outside in frigid temperatures, WFLD reported, noting that there are surveillance cameras in the area.

Under Illinois’ Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act, parents are shielded from prosecution if they abandon unharmed newborns under 30 days old at designated safe havens, including staffed fire stations, staffed police stations and hospitals.

Dawn Geras, executive chairperson of Chicago’s Save Abandoned Babies Foundation, told WLS-TV that the person who abandoned the baby found Saturday was “so close to doing the right thing.” The nonprofit has been working for decades to promote the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act.

“Why didn’t they take that extra two steps?” Geras asked, according to WLS. “I’m speechless. I don’t know what to say anymore. I want to scream and yell.”

In a statement posted Saturday on Twitter, officials with the Chicago Fire Department noted that the state’s safe haven law provides “a safe way for parents who make the difficult choice to give up a newborn adoption.”

“Handing over a newborn to a firefighter or paramedic directly at a firehouse can help facilitate the safest outcome,” officials said. “No questions asked and no judgment given.”

As of August 2021,143 infants had been brought to safe haven sites in Illinois, according to the Save Abandoned Babies Foundation. The nonprofit reported that in the same time, 87 babies had been illegally abandoned, more than half of whom did not survive.