Arrests Made in Chicago Officer's Murder
Funeral information below
Posted: Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Updated: June 4th, 2009 10:06 AM EDT
ANNIE SWEENEY, FRANK MAIN and MARK J. KONKOL
The Chicago Sun-Times
Shot at minutes earlier on an Englewood street, the two gang members returned for revenge.
At the same time, police also were responding to the shots early Monday by sending Officer Alejandro "Alex'' Valadez and his partner to the block.
It was there, in the 6000 block of South Hermitage, that paths tragically crossed as the reputed gang members, Shawn Gaston and Kevin Walker, allegedly fired onto the street from a passing car, fatally shooting the plainclothes officer in the head as he talked to a resident about the earlier shootings.
Gaston, 20, and Walker, 21 -- who have histories of gun-related arrests -- were charged Tuesday with the murder of Valadez, 27, a three-year officer who comes from a family of Chicago Police officers. His sister is assigned to the evidence and recovered property section. His brother works in the Ogden District. His pregnant girlfriend is an officer in the Englewood District.
"Every citizen of Chicago owes this officer a debt of gratitude,'' Chief of Detectives Thomas Byrne said. "Our hearts are heavy and will remain so for a very long time.''
Gaston and Walker were arrested shortly after the shooting -- which happened at 12:15 a.m. Monday -- on a porch in the 6200 block of South Paulina.
STOP BY STATE POLICE CALLED KEY
Police gathered several pieces of evidence against the two, but a pivotal break in the case came from an Illinois State Police officer, who, by chance, had stopped Gaston and Walker the day before the shooting in the 2007 Pontiac detectives believed was used in the drive-by, several sources said.
The two were stopped for a seat belt violation, and the encounter was videotaped as a matter of routine practice, the sources said. It was key because it put Gaston and Walker inside the car together a day before the Valadez shooting.
Detectives found the ticket and contacted the state to inquire about whether there was a tape, source said. It was turned over immediately.
The car was recovered by the department's Targeted Response Unit. Inside were three guns -- including one in the trunk of the car that detectives believe was the murder weapon. A shell casing recovered in the car also matched those found at the scene, Byrne said. tests on evidence are ongoing.
Gaston, in a statement, also allegedly admitted he was the shooter. Walker was driving the car used in the drive-by shooting, police said.
Chicago Police respond, on average, 87 times a day to calls of shots fired
, according to 2008 statistics. Valadez was the type of officer who wanted to answer such high-risk calls, his colleagues recalled Tuesday as the charges were announced.
He had worked midnights in the Englewood District on a team that responded to high-crime areas and to quality of life concerns. And he wanted to work hard cases and was willing to stay late to see them through.
"He came out every day and hit the street with something to accomplish,'' said Officer Melvin Oliver, a member of Valadez's team.
Co-workers also recalled Valadez as a proud father-to-be who showed off ultrasound photos. They remembered his fun attitude and smile.
BROTHER RICE REMEMBERS OFFICER
The officer's slaying also struck those who hadn't seen him in years, including his former principal at Brother Rice High School.
Jim Antos said when he saw a smiling photo of Valadez on the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times Tuesday, he remembered a quiet, amiable young man who was among about 40 students who chose to attend a religious retreat at the Southwest Side school.
"For Alex, it speaks volumes that he [had] the courage to go. For a lot of guys it's not the coolest thing to do,'' Antos said. "It's four days of coming to know yourself, coming to know God better. . . . You come to know you are truly a good person. It doesn't surprise me that he went into the kind of work he did in terms of wanting to help people.''
Gaston, the alleged shooter, was arrested in 2007 for carrying a loaded gun in the 6000 block of South Paulina -- and about two blocks from Valadez's slaying. He pleaded guilty to a felony and was sentenced on March 20, 2008, to two years' probation by Judge Bertina Lampkin. He is due in court before Lampkin next month on a violation of probation.
Gaston, of the 6200 block of South Paulina, has been arrested at least 13 times on charges that include robbery, assault and gambling. He's listed on several arrest reports as a member of the Gangster Disciples.
Walker, of the 2500 block of West 70th Street, pleaded guilty to a 2008 aggravated armed robbery in the 6400 block of South Fairfield after he pulled a man from a truck as an accomplice held a gun to the man's head, according to court records.