CPD WARNS OF­FI­CERS OF GANG RE­TAL­I­A­TION AF­TER MAN SHOT TO DEATH BY PO­LICE IN PILSEN

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY SAM CHARLES, STAFF RE­PORTER scharles@sun­times.com | @samjcharle­s

Chicago po­lice of­fi­cers have been warned gang mem­bers in the Pilsen area may be tar­get­ing cops for re­tal­i­a­tion af­ter a man was shot to death by po­lice ear­lier this week.

An of­fi­cer safety alert, is­sued Wednes­day by Near West District Cmdr. Gabriella She­mash, states “there may be a pos­si­ble re­tal­i­a­tion to­wards CPD due to the re­cent shoot­ing to­wards the po­lice and by the po­lice in­volv­ing La Raza.” A copy of the memo was ob­tained by the Chicago Sun-Times.

Ac­cord­ing to She­mash’s alert, sev­eral high-rank­ing mem­bers of La Raza had a con­fer­ence call this week in which they said “some­thing had to be done” about the fa­tal shoot­ing of Miguel Vega.

Vega, a 26-year-old fa­ther of two boys, was shot and killed by a CPD of­fi­cer Mon­day night in the 1300 block of West 19th Street.

About 10:45 p.m., of­fi­cers were called to the block for a report of a sus­pi­cious per­son. Once there, of­fi­cers saw five peo­ple stand­ing on the side­walk. As the cops were get­ting out of their ve­hi­cle, some­one started shoot­ing at them, strik­ing their squad car.

The of­fi­cers re­turned fire, shoot­ing Vega once in the head. He was taken to Stroger Hos­pi­tal, where he was later pro­nounced dead.

Two peo­ple were taken into cus­tody but were later re­leased, po­lice said. A pis­tol was re­cov­ered at the scene.

The Civil­ian Of­fice of Po­lice Ac­count­abil­ity, the agency that investigat­es uses of force by CPD of­fi­cers, has said body­cam footage of the shoot­ing will be re­leased within the next eight weeks, keep­ing with agency pol­icy.

Vega’s fam­ily has pushed back on the CPD’s ver­sion of events, say­ing, “Neigh­bors and peo­ple who wit­nessed the crime first­hand are com­ing for­ward and have con­tra­dict­ing ver­sions as to what re­ally hap­pened.”

“My brother may not have been an an­gel, you know, how ev­ery­one ex­pects some­one to be,” Vega’s brother, Erik Vega, said dur­ing a vigil Wednes­day. “Ev­ery­one messes up in life, but some­times you’ve got to turn things around, and that’s what my brother was try­ing to do.”

Be­sides warn­ing of pos­si­ble re­tal­ia­tory shoot­ings, She­mash’s alert makes clear that po­lice of­fi­cials be­lieve Miguel Vega was one of at least two men who fired at po­lice. The alert goes on to name three other men who were stand­ing on the side­walk with him when the gun­fire be­gan, though “it is un­clear who the other shooter was at the time of the in­ci­dent.”

The Sun-Times is not nam­ing the three other men as they have not been charged in con­nec­tion to Mon­day’s shoot­ing. Court records show two of the three were charged with sev­eral counts of ag­gra­vated un­law­ful use of a weapon in 2019. The Cook County state’s at­tor­ney’s of­fice, how­ever, dropped those charges against both men in Jan­uary and July, re­spec­tively.

Court records show Vega had never faced any gun-re­lated crimes.

La Raza — “The Race” in Span­ish — orig­i­nated in Pilsen in the 1970s and still claims the area bounded by 16th Street, Cer­mak Road and Racine and Ash­land av­enues as ter­ri­tory. The gang also op­er­ates in the Back of the Yards and Brighton Park neigh­bor­hoods a few miles south.

Miguel Vega’s Face­book pro­file fea­tures sev­eral posts in which he cel­e­brates La Raza and taunts ri­val gangs.

The shoot­ing of Vega hap­pened about 12 hours af­ter CPD Supt. David Brown said 51 of­fi­cers have been shot at so far in 2020, with 10 of those wounded by gun­fire.

A day ear­lier, two of­fi­cers were shot af­ter be­ing am­bushed by a man who al­legedly hid in the trunk of his car dur­ing a West Side traf­fic stop.

In a state­ment, the CPD said it “takes all threats against of­fi­cer safety se­ri­ously, and we will take all nec­es­sary mea­sures to safe­guard our of­fi­cers.”

John Catan­zara, pres­i­dent of the Fra­ter­nal Or­der of Po­lice, the union that rep­re­sents rank-and-file of­fi­cers, could not be reached for com­ment.

Look­ing to ex­pand a po­lit­i­cally con­nected red-light cam­era com­pany’s foot­print in south­west sub­ur­ban Oak Lawn back in May 2017, a sales con­sul­tant spoke by phone to a part­ner in the firm and told him to “put this thought in the back of your head.”

An Oak Lawn trus­tee was “out of a job” and was “look­ing for a job for his kid.” Or so SafeSpeed sales agent Pa­trick Do­herty told one of the firm’s part­ners, Omar Maani.

“I think he’s look­ing to make as much money as he can be­cause he’s go­ing to col­lege, and his dad’s gonna have no money to give him be­cause he’s outta work,” Do­herty al­legedly told Maani, sug­gest­ing that a short-term job worth $800 a week for the son might buy the trus­tee.

Three years later, that’s the lat­est episode to spill into pub­lic view as fed­eral au­thor­i­ties con­tinue their probe into a se­ries of sub­ur­ban pub­lic cor­rup­tion schemes in­volv­ing SafeSpeed. Maani’s at­tor­ney con­firmed Fri­day that he will co­op­er­ate with the feds af­ter Maani struck what’s known as a de­ferred­pros­e­cu­tion agree­ment to re­solve a bribery con­spir­acy charge filed re­cently.

In do­ing so, Maani ad­mit­ted to a set of al­le­ga­tions that specif­i­cally men­tion Do­herty, the in­dicted for­mer chief of staff to ex-Cook County Com­mis­sioner Jeff Tobol­ski. Oth­ers caught up in SafeSpeed scan­dals in­clude ex-state Sen. Martin San­doval and Crest­wood Mayor Louis Presta. Tobol­ski also pleaded guilty to cor­rup­tion charges in a sep­a­rate case ear­lier this week.

Do­herty’s lawyer did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to mes­sages seek­ing com­ment. SafeSpeed has por­trayed Maani as a rogue ac­tor who long ago left the firm, in­sist­ing in a state­ment this week that “SafeSpeed is as of­fended as any­one by what Omar Maani did. His al­leged con­duct has and will con­tinue to set SafeSpeed back.”

Maani’s deal says he also “pro­vided other ben­e­fits, in­clud­ing cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions, meals, money, and sport­ing-event tick­ets, to other pub­lic of­fi­cials, with the in­ten­tion of ob­tain­ing “those of­fi­cials’ of­fi­cial ac­tion in fa­vor of” SafeSpeed. It said Maani ad­di­tion­ally paid for a ticket so the Oak Lawn trus­tee could at­tend an event at a cigar lounge the

Chicago Sun-Times has pre­vi­ously iden­ti­fied as part of the feds’ in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“Omar ac­cepts re­spon­si­bil­ity for his role in the charged con­spir­acy,” Me­gan Cun­niff Church, Maani’s de­fense at­tor­ney, said in a state­ment. “He has en­tered into a de­ferred pros­e­cu­tion agree­ment with the govern­ment and will con­tinue to co­op­er­ate as re­quested.”

That adds Maani to an ever-grow­ing list of govern­ment co­op­er­a­tors who have gone pub­lic amid a se­ries of pub­lic cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tions. They in­clude Tobol­ski, San­doval and for­mer Chicago Ald. Danny Solis. A source has iden­ti­fied state Sen. Terry Link as an­other govern­ment co­op­er­a­tor. Link has de­nied it but has since been crim­i­nally charged.

Only a se­lect few have landed a so-called de­ferred-pros­e­cu­tion agree­ment, though. The feds struck a sim­i­lar deal in a bribery case in­volv­ing the util­ity com­pany ComEd in July. And lawyers for in­dicted Ald. Ed Burke say Solis did the same.

Maani’s agree­ment calls for him to show “good con­duct” for two years.

It also says he schemed in May 2017 with Do­herty and an­other un­named SafeSpeed sales agent to in­flu­ence the uniden­ti­fied Oak Lawn trus­tee as they sought to put ad­di­tional SafeSpeed cam­eras in the sub­urb. It said Do­herty broached the idea in the phone call with Maani on May 23, 2017.

In an­other call two days later, Do­herty al­legedly said, “Look, I’ll put in a cou­ple grand if I have to … If it guarantees us get­ting the other lo­ca­tions (to in­stall red-light cam­eras) in Oak Lawn, and the new po­lice chief, I’m sure I’ll get my money back.”

AN­THONY VAZQUEZ/SUN-TIMES

Friends and fam­ily of Miguel Vega — the man fa­tally shot by po­lice in Pilsen on Mon­day night — hold a vigil in his mem­ory at the scene of the shoot­ing ear­lier this week.

PRO­VIDED PHOTO

Busi­ness­man Omar Maani has reached a de­ferred pros­e­cu­tion deal as in­ves­ti­ga­tors con­tinue to look into a red-light cam­era com­pany’s deal­ings with sub­ur­ban politi­cians.

Pa­trick Do­herty

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