‘WE ARE IN A BAT­TLE’

Ald. Ray Lopez blames ‘gang bangers’ for throw­ing brick into his Brighton Park home, set­ting fire to nearby garage

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY MITCH DUDEK, STAFF RE­PORTER mdudek@sun­times.com | @mitch­dudek Con­tribut­ing: Fran Spiel­man, Sam Charles, Jer­maine Nolen and David Struett

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.

PAT NABONG/SUN-TIMES PHOTOS

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.

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