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