‘WE ARE IN A BATTLE’
Ald. Ray Lopez blames ‘gang bangers’ for throwing brick into his Brighton Park home, setting fire to nearby garage
A vandal threw a brick through the window of Ald. Ray Lopez’s (15th) home early Thursday before coming back an hour later and setting a neighbor’s garage on fire.
The incidents happened in the 4300 block of South Artesian Avenue just hours after a confrontation between the alderman and gang members who live five blocks west of Lopez’s house — in the 4300 block of South Fairfield Avenue — a block known to police and members of the community for gang activity.
“While I was on the block yesterday afternoon, four households of gang members came out trying to be intimidating, trying to talk their usual garbage ... and one made it a point of telling me that politicians don’t make peace in the neighborhood, it’s up to them to decide if there’s going to be peace in the neighborhood,” Lopez told the Sun-Times Thursday morning.
“Fast-forward 12 hours later and I have bricks through my windows and fire on my neighbor’s property,” he said.
“I’ll be perfectly honest, I’m quite pissed that gang members think that they can walk up to anyone’s house, let alone an alderman’s house, right to the front door and start breaking windows and doing what they want to do, thinking that there’s no repercussions for that,” he said.
“This is the kind of terror and fear they try to maintain in our neighborhoods. It’s the exact thing I’ve been fighting against.”
Lopez said he’d been pressuring owners of troubled buildings on the block, including one house in particular in recent days, to address gang activity on their properties — or face stiff city penalties.
“I’m sure that message made its way down to the tenant, who in this case is a 16-year-old living with his mother,” Lopez said.
“I can’t say it’s him, but if I was a gambling man I’d say that the people involved came from that block,” Lopez said.
Lopez was awakened at 1:16 a.m. by the brick attack, which was caught on surveillance camera. Two bricks, stolen from a neighbor’s driveway, were hurled through his window.
Video doesn’t clearly show the face of the vandal.
About an hour later, there was an “explosion and fireball in the alley,” said Lopez, saying his husband, Hugo, doused the flames with a hose. A strong smell of gasoline wafted from the burnt garage.
“I believe that the individual who broke my windows came back with a buddy and tried to burn down what he thought was my garage ... all in an attempt to send a threatening and intimidating message to me for a lot of the recent work we’ve been doing ramping up our efforts trying to address the gang violence that has been growing in my ward and in particular the Brighton Park community,” Lopez said.
An on-duty Department of Revenue employee happened to be in the area and saw the two exit the alley after the fire started, said Lopez, who shared details of the attack on Twitter.
No one was injured and no one was in custody, police said.
Lopez lives at the home with his husband, in-laws and six dogs.
On Thursday, Lopez said he was going to continue to root gang members out of his ward and put on notice landlords who look the other way when gang activity is taking place on their properties.
“Confronting these gang member’s headon is what I’ve been about almost my entire aldermanic career and we’ve made great strides, and to see them think that this is something they hope will put me back in my place, they are truly mistaken,” he said.
“This only strengthens my resolve to move forward, especially now that you tried to attack my family in my home. We are in a battle, the gangs and I, and I intend to win it.”
Lopez thanked his fellow Council members and other elected officials “and, especially, my residents and the people of Chicago for their texts, emails and calls expressing their compassion and solidarity with my family.”
A frequent critic of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Lopez said the mayor “hasn’t reached out to me and I don’t expect her to” because of their adversarial relationship. Lightfoot was asked about the incident at an unrelated news conference and said Chicago police “immediately responded and are in conversation with him, and the investigation is ongoing.”
Later Thursday, Lopez said his house was getting “special attention” ordered by the local CPD district commander, though no squad car was stationed at the home.
Ald. Ray Lopez’s home in Brighton Park (above) was vandalized early Thursday. A fire was set (below) to a garage owned by a neighbor of the alderman.