COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — Two men were convicted Wednesday of the 2009 murder of Chicago Police Officer Alejandro "Alex" Valadez, who was gunned down in the line of duty.
Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez personally prosecuted Kevin Walker, 26, and Christopher Harris, 24, in the 2009 slaying.
A jury returned a guilty verdict for Walker, the getaway driver, on Wednesday afternoon. Later in the day, a different jury found Harris, one of the gunmen, also guilty of murder.
Walker did not react visibly as the verdict was read, and his family walked out of the crowded courtroom, stone-faced, as attorneys prepared to make closing arguments in the case against Harris.
He was tried in the same courtroom as Harris, with separate juries hearing the cases together and occasionally being separated when evidence specific to one defendant was offered.
Shawn Gaston, a third co-defendant, was convicted in the case in 2011 and is serving a 125-year prison sentence.
Valadez, 27, was gunned down in June 2009 while working in West Englewood, where he was investigating reports of gunfire, Alvarez told jurors when the trial began.
Valadez and his partner were searching a vacant lot near 61st and Hermitage for evidence, possibly guns or shell casings, when he was cut down by gangbangers bent on revenge, authorities said.
"Officer Valadez became another grim statistic," Alvarez said. "The defendant became a murderer."
As Valadez was asking a man passing by whether he'd heard any shots, a car with three armed men came toward them, Alvarez said. Harris stuck a .357 revolver out the rear passenger window and opened fire, striking Valadez in his head and leg, authorities said.
"What does he do? He shoots at them," Alvarez said during opening arguments. "He shoots and he shoots and he shoots and he shoots. That's the way he showed respect for the work Officer Valadez was doing."
Two shots hit Valadez. The bullets later removed from his body matched the .357 Harris had with him, Alvarez said. And gunshot residue was found on Harris' hands, she said.
Harris and cohorts stashed the guns in the trunk of their car and then Harris "joins the party and smokes his weed," Alvarez said.
Harris' defense attorney, Tod Urban, argued the case against his client hinged on the testimony of one witness who changed her story several weeks after the murder and blamed Harris.
"It's not as black-and-white as it appears to be," he said.