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'Why ICE?': Family, Alderman Baffled After Dad Shot During Raid

By  Kelly Bauer and Alex Nitkin | March 28, 2017 10:01am | Updated on March 28, 2017 11:17am

 Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) speaks at a Tuesday rally condemning the ICE raid that left a 53-year-old man wounded.
Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) speaks at a Tuesday rally condemning the ICE raid that left a 53-year-old man wounded.
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DNAinfo/Alex Nitkin

DOWNTOWN — The family of a man shot by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents earlier this week is disputing the agency's claim that the man aimed a gun at the agents.

At 6:20 a.m. Monday, agents from ICE went to the 6100 block of West Grand Avenue to arrest someone, according to the agency. A man who was there during the arrest pointed a gun at agents, and an ICE agent shot and wounded the man, according to ICE.

The man, identified by family members as Felix Torres Sr., was hit in his left arm and taken to Stroger Hospital, where he was in serious condition, police said. ICE said the wounded man was not the person they came to arrest.

Torres and others who live in the home "insist he did not have a gun," said Thomas Hallock, Torres' attorney. Hallock said he spoke to Torres, who was heavily medicated, at the hospital after the shooting, and Torres said he'd heard a loud noise, opened the door to hear what was going on and was shot.

The family told Hallock that Torres and his wife are lawful, permanent residents and that their children were born in the United States and are citizens.

One of Torres' sons was taken into custody by ICE while they were at a police station after the shooting, Hallock said. The son told Hallock he was held for several hours and questioned about his citizenship but not the shooting or "any other crime," Hallock said.

"That's something that could've been determined and should've been determined before they went to this residence," Hallock said. "Worst-case scenario, they had entirely the wrong residence. Or maybe they just had bad intelligence, bad information. But it's all pretty strange."

Torres' family weren't allowed to return to the home, Hallock said, and they've had to rely on friends and family for shelter and food.

"They're all citizens. I just don't know yet why [ICE agents] were involved," Hallock said. "We're still trying to figure out what really was going on here."

Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th), who represents the area where the shooting occurred, said his office had been "flooded" with calls about the shooting. The office typically gets 60 to 80 calls a day but had more than 200 Monday.

Villegas was one of multiple elected officials and immigrant rights advocates who denounced the raid at a press conference Tuesday afternoon, speaking in front of the brick Belmont Cragin home where it had occurred.

"This house here, we've had some problems in the past, but those are local issues, and we're dealing with them in a local manner," Villegas said. "But when you have U.S. citizens and legal residents with ICE agents bursting into their house, that should give everyone pause."

The target of the raid, 23-year-old Felix Torres, Jr., had a warrant out for unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, and was arrested on Feb. 24, police records show. Torres is due to appear in bond court Wednesday.

Torres' daughter, Carmen Torres, was sleeping in the basement of the house with her husband and 1-year-old daughter when agents burst through the front door, she said Monday.

"They didn't say anything. They just came in and pointed pistols in our faces and dragged us out," Carmen Torres said. "We didn't even have time to dress or grab milk for the baby."

Standing outside the home in sweatpants and slippers Monday morning, Carmen Torres denied that her father had pointed a gun at the agent before being shot.

"It's a lie when they say he was holding a gun. He doesn't even own a gun," Carmen Torres said. "They shot my dad. They shot him, and I don't know why."

Villegas and his staff have been reassuring callers they have rights and should contact an attorney if they encounter an "overzealous" ICE agent or any other officer, he said. The office offers free legal services and has been talking with pro bono attorneys to let them know they might see an uptick in reports of discrimination and rights being violated.

Villegas wants people to "remember in this country they have rights," he said.

The shooting calls for the relationship between local and federal officials to be revisited, Villegas said.

"We're going to have to talk to CPD to find out if this was a coordinated effort, because if it was in any way, that raises concerns about us as a sanctuary city," Villegas said. "Is this our future in Chicago with Donald Trump as president?"

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) also was highly critical of the raid.

"ICE’s guns-blazing raid on a Northwest Side home filled with sleeping kids is exactly why the City of Chicago should refuse to collaborate with ICE. ICE routinely violates the American people’s constitutional rights," he said in a statement. "This guns-blazing ICE raid deepens my resolve to organize my community so we can keep each other safe from the threat posed by ICE."

A City Council committee last week unanimously approved a resolution to renew Chicago's status as a sanctuary city, meaning that city police would not help federal officials find and deport undocumented immigrants.

This week, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowed to cut of federal funding to sanctuary cities

Villegas said he was told that the ICE officer "defended himself" from potential danger, he said, but that didn't reassure him of the operation's legitimacy.

"The community's got to be nervous about this, and rightfully so, because you have a right to be in your own home without being intimidated," Villegas said. "I'm conflicted because I haven't got all the details [of the incident] yet, but from the way this has started to play out, it looks like an overstep by an overzealous ICE agent who's just trying to follow Trump's orders."

The raid sent a shockwave through the neighborhood, according to Eddie Concepcion, a Belmont Cragin community organizer and former volunteer for CeaseFire.

Even if Torres had been holding a gun, that doesn't mean he deserved to be shot, Concepcion said.

"Is this how far they're willing to go to deport people? Busting into someone's home when little kids are sleeping there?" he said. "If they did that to me, I'd probably want to defend myself too."

But for Carlos, who lives next door to the raided house on Grand Avenue and declined to say his last name, neighbors have no choice but to keep living their lives.

“None of us have any idea what happened over there yesterday,” Carlos said. "What are we supposed to do? Stop going out? Stop going to work? Impossible." 

ICE's Office of Professional Responsibility will review the shooting, according to the agency.

Chicago police said they would "investigate the underlying criminal offense."

ICE did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.