COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — The gunman who shot two Chicago police officers he thought were rival gang members fired at least 25 bullets from the back of a minivan using a high-powered rifle, prosecutors said Monday.
Investigators said they have not caught that gunman, but they arrested his suspected getaway driver, Angel Gomez, 18. He was denied bail Monday on charges of attempted first-degree murder and aggravated battery with a firearm.
Prosecutors allege Gomez was driving a Chrysler Town & Country minivan about 9:10 p.m. May 2 when the uncharged accomplice swung open the van's side door and began shooting toward an unmarked police van — seriously wounding two tactical officers from the Deering police district.
Gomez and his accomplice are members of the La Raza street gang who believed the plainclothes officers wearing bulletproof vests were members of a rival gang, Assistant State's Attorney James Murphy said during a bond hearing.
At a news conference Sunday, Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson issued a warning to Gomez's accomplice: "Please know that whether you're in Chicago, Charlotte, Los Angeles, you'll have to spend these next few days consistently, constantly, looking over your shoulder because know this: We are coming to bring you to justice, and you will answer for your actions."
According to prosecutors, it all started the evening of May 2 when two tactical officers, ages 26 and 38, were investigating a gang shooting near Halsted Street and Archer Avenue.
The officers believed several people in a nearby Nissan Murano may have been planning to retaliate for the shooting, Murphy said, so police began following the Murano and an accompanying red van.
Passengers in both vehicles soon spotted the large black unmarked van trailing them — and falsely assumed its inhabitants were rival gang members, prosecutors said.
That's when the passengers called Gomez and several accomplices who were parked at a nearby gas station in two vehicles: the Town & Country that Gomez was driving and a brown Chevy Trailblazer, according to Murphy.
People inside both vehicles were given the location of the police van, which had called off its surveillance after the Murano turned down several side streets, prosecutors said.
As the officers headed back to the Deering district police station at 3120 S. Halsted St., Murphy said, the Trailblazer and Town & Country began following the police van.
Officers were able to lose the Trailblazer by making a quick turn, prosecutors said, but the Town & Country caught up with the van and kept pace next to it as the police tried to speed away in the 1500 block of West 34rd Street.
At that point, Gomez's accomplice, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, fired several shots toward the police van using a .233-caliber assault rifle, Murphy said. The accomplice then jumped into the back of the minivan, where he swung open a side door and continued to fire, according to authorities.
One of the bullets pierced the police van's gas tank, prosecutors said. The van soon sputtered to a stop as it leaked gas, and both officers fired multiple rounds at the fleeing Town & Country through their front window — shooting out at least one of the minivan's tires, Murphy said.
Gomez and his accomplice ran away after stashing the rifle near railroad tracks in a nearby lot, Murphy said. Police dogs later found the gun, and witnesses were able to identify Gomez as the getaway driver.
The 26-year-old officer was shot in his left hip, left upper arm and right flank, prosecutors said. The 38-year-old officer was struck in his back. Both men were taken to nearby hospitals, where they were treated and released.
According to defense attorney David Sabatini, Gomez lives with his parents and five siblings in Back of the Yards. He is a lifelong Chicagoan who dropped out of high school to work in landscaping, the attorney said.
Sabatini asked for a lenient bond, noting that Gomez has no prior convictions and "he is not the person who was firing the gun."
According to Murphy, Gomez has a pending misdemeanor case for marijuana possession and having guns without a valid FOID card.
Cook County Judge Laura Sullivan on Monday denied Gomez bail, calling him a threat to the community.