1 Dead, 4 Wounded in Shootings Tuesday across Chicago

(Chicago Tribune) Five people were shot in Chicago on Tuesday, including one man killed and two wounded in a triple shooting on the West Side. The triple shooting happened about 4:10 p.m. in the 500 block of South Lockwood Avenue in the West Side’s South Austin neighborhood, Chicago police said. Someone fired at the men…

2 Dead, 6 Wounded in Shootings across Chicago Monday

(Sun Times Wire) Two men were killed and six other people were wounded in shootings Monday across Chicago, police said. The day’s latest homicide happened at 6:03 p.m. in the Uptown neighborhood on the North Side. DeShawn Johnson was shot in the chest at 6:03 p.m. in the 1200 block of West Leland, Chicago police…

2 Dead, 16 Wounded in Weekend Shootings across Chicago

(Sun Times Wire) Two men were killed and at least 16 other people were wounded in weekend shootings across Chicago. The men, both 29, were shot to death early Sunday in the Brighton Park neighborhood on the Southwest Side. They were walking about 1:55 a.m. in the 2400 block of West 47th Place when an…

2 Dead, 4 Wounded in Shootings Wednesday in Chicago

(Sun Times Wire) Two men were killed and at least four other people were wounded in shootings Wednesday on the city’s South and West sides. A 37-year-old man was found shot to death at 1:17 p.m. inside an Austin neighborhood home on the West Side. He was found with a gunshot wound to the chest…

1 Dead, 3 Wounded in Shootings Tuesday across Chicago

(Sun Times Wire) One man was killed and at least three other men were wounded in shootings Tuesday on the city’s South and West sides. A man was shot to death shortly after 4:30 p.m. in the Brighton Park neighborhood on the Southwest Side. Armondo Reyes, 28, was standing near his vehicle in an alley…

5 Wounded in Shootings Monday across Chicago

(Sun Times Wire) Five people were wounded in shootings Monday across Chicago. The day’s latest shooting happened at 9:54 p.m. in the West Garfield Park neighborhood. A 37-year-old man got into an argument with another male at a party in the 4400 block of West Madison when the other person took out a gun and…

5 Dead, 25 Wounded in Weekend Shootings across Chicago

(ABC) Five people were killed and at least 24 others were wounded in shootings across Chicago between Friday afternoon and Monday morning. The weekend’s latest fatal shooting happened about 7:20 p.m. Sunday in the South Chicago neighborhood. A 38-year-old man was sitting outside in the 7900-block of South East End Avenue when another male walked…

1 Dead, 8 Wounded in Shootings Friday in Chicago

(ABC) One man was killed and at least eight other people were wounded in shootings across Chicago since Friday afternoon, police said. The man, who was believed to be in his 20s, was found at 3:44 a.m. Saturday sitting in his car in the Archer Heights neighborhood on the Southwest Side, according to Chicago police.…

2 Dead, 3 Wounded in Shootings Thursday in Chicago

(Chicago Tribune) Two men were killed and three people were wounded in separate shootings on Thursday, including an attack at an Uptown Starbucks that injured a 12-year-old boy, Chicago police said. In the most recent homicide, a 29-year-old man was found shot in a car in the Far South Side’s Roseland neighborhood about 10:05 p.m.,…

Shooting at Uptown Starbucks Leaves, 1 Dead, 2 Wounded

(Chicago Tribune) One man died and two other people, including a 12-year-old boy, were injured in a shooting at a Starbucks in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood Thursday night, according to officials and witnesses. A man, 28, was dead at the scene following the shooting about 8:10 p.m. at the Starbucks, 4753 N. Broadway, at Lawrence Avenue,…

Man Gets, 11 Year Sentence for South Side Rail Yard Gun Rip Off

(ABC) A man convicted of helping steal more than 100 guns in a 2015 freight train burglary has been sentenced to 11 years in prison. Patrick Edwards, 38, of Chicago, was sentenced to 132 months in prison by U.S. District Judge John J. Tharp Jr. in federal court today, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.…

2 Dead, 7 Wounded in Shootings Wednesday

(Sun Times Wire) Two men were killed, and seven others wounded in shootings Wednesday across Chicago. The most recent fatal shooting happened about 2:20 p.m. in the East Garfield Park neighborhood. A 24-year-old man was found shot in the upper back in the 3300 block of West Congress Parkway, Chicago Police said. He was taken…

4 Dead, 28 Wounded in Halloween Shootings Across Chicago, 2017

(Maggio News Video) Two people were killed and at least seven others wounded — including a man who accidentally shot himself — in shootings on Halloween across Chicago. The most recent fatal shooting happened just after 9 a.m. in the South Shore neighborhood. Harold Stewart...

(Maggio News Video) Two people were killed and at least seven others wounded — including a man who accidentally shot himself — in shootings on Halloween across Chicago.

The most recent fatal shooting happened just after 9 a.m. in the South Shore neighborhood. Harold Stewart, 63, was shot in the head and upper body about 9:05 a.m. in the 7300 block of South Oglesby, according to police and the Cook County medical examiner’s office. He was found unresponsive at the scene by officers responding to a call of a person shot. Stewart was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 10:22 a.m. He lived in the same block as the shooting.

Less than an hour earlier, a man died after he was shot in the head and crashed his vehicle in the West Side Austin neighborhood. At 8:24 a.m., Apache White, 47, was inside a vehicle during a drug sale when someone walked up with a gun and shot him in the head in the first block of South Lockwood, authorities said. White drove off from the shooting, but collided with another vehicle about a block away, causing his vehicle to flip over near Monroe Street and Lockwood Avenue. He was taken to Loretto Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 8:35 a.m. He lived in the Galewood neighborhood.

A second person who was in the vehicle with White was not hurt, police said.

The most recent nonfatal shooting wounded a 17-year-old boy in the Montclare neighborhood on the Northwest Side. The boy was riding a bicycle at 8:56 p.m. in the 7000 block of West Grand when shots were fired by several males standing on the sidewalk, police said. The boy was struck in the right leg and taken to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, where he was treated and released.

About an hour before in another Northwest Side shooting, a 20-year-old man was shot in the leg Albany Park’s 3900 block of West Montrose, police said. He was taken to Swedish Covenant Hospital, where his condition was stabilized.

A 14-year-old boy was shot about 7:20 p.m. in the Lawndale neighborhood on the Southwest Side. The boy was shot in his right thigh in the 1300 block of South Independence, police said. He was taken to Stroger Hospital in good condition.

Less than 20 minutes earlier, a man was wounded in an East Chatham neighborhood shooting on the South Side. Someone walked up and shot the 22-year-old in the abdomen when he got out of a vehicle in the 8500 block of South Drexel. He was taken to Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn in serious condition.

A 29-year-old man was wounded about 1:35 p.m. in a Morgan Park neighborhood shooting on the Far South Side. He was standing in the 11300 block of South Aberdeen when a vehicle pulled up and someone inside fired multiple shots, police said. He was shot in the left buttocks, left hip and right knee, and was taken to Christ Medical Center, where his condition stabilized.

Just before noon, another man was shot in the South Side Chatham neighborhood. The 21-year-old was shot in the left thigh and taken in good condition to Christ Medical Center, police said.

Halloween’s first shooting happened just after 6 a.m. in the West Pullman neighborhood on the Far South Side. A 19-year-old man robbed two people at gunpoint of their cellphones, wallets and cash at a business in the 700 block of West 116th Place, police said. As the man was running away, he shot himself in the penis. He was taken in serious condition to Christ Medical Center, where he was taken into custody. Charges are pending.

Article Org: Chicago.suntimes.com

2 Dead, 21 wounded in Halloween Weekend Shootings in Chicago

(Fox32) A 16-year-old girl who was killed and a 3-year-old boy who was wounded were among 23 people shot, two fatally, in Chicago gun violence between Friday afternoon and Monday morning. At 6:57 p.m. Sunday, an acquaintance of the teenage girl, identified as Eshani Mayfield, was handling a gun inside a home in the 6600…

3-Year-Old Boy Shot in Drive By Shooting in Washington Park

(Sun Times Wire) A 3-year-old boy was shot and seriously wounded early Sunday while traveling in the back seat of a car that came under fire in the Washington Park neighborhood on the South Side. About 12:30 a.m., the westbound car stopped at a stop sign in the first block of East 60th Street when…

7 Wounded in Shootings on Friday in Chicago

(ABC) Seven people have been wounded in shootings across Chicago since Friday evening. The latest attack happened at 4:28 a.m. Saturday when a person was shot in the West Side Humboldt Park neighborhood. The male, whose exact age wasn’t known, was walking in the 2800-block of West Division when he was caught in the crossfire…

2 Dead, 12 Wounded in Shootings on Thursday in Chicago

(dnainfo) Two people were killed and 12 people were wounded in shootings in Chicago since Thursday morning, police said. In Brighton Park, two boys, ages 15 and 14, were shot Friday afternoon. The 15-year-old boy died, police said. Earlier, a 46-year-old man was fatally shot in Belmont Cragin, according to police. In nonfatal shootings: •…

2 Dead, 3 Wounded in Shootings on Wednesday in Chicago

(Chicago Tribune) The drive was only 15 minutes, but Kita Brown felt like it lasted much longer. Her anguished boyfriend sped from 55th Street to the 9600 block of South Euclid Avenue in Jeffery Manor after he got a call early Thursday that his cousin was shot on the Far South ...

(Chicago Tribune) The drive was only 15 minutes, but Kita Brown felt like it lasted much longer.

Her anguished boyfriend sped from 55th Street to the 9600 block of South Euclid Avenue in Jeffery Manor after he got a call early Thursday that his cousin was shot on the Far South Side street.

Slowed by stoplights, they tried to reach the shooting as quickly as possible. Her boyfriend was frantic and crying, she said.

The cousin, a 41-year-old man, was shot in the head, torso and buttocks about 2:10 a.m., police said. He was pronounced dead on the scene. The man was in an alley when someone approached him and opened fire, according to police.

“This is pretty hard to watch,” said Brown, leaning on a tree in her pink Hello Kitty pajamas.

Investigators roped off the gangway between two brick houses. A path led behind the homes, where a car was parked on grass in a backyard.

Family members stood just outside the crime scene, hugging and crying as they watched investigators from a fence surrounding the backyard. They said he often parked in a backyard across the street from his home.

About two months earlier, the man was shot farther to the south, according to preliminary information from a law enforcement source.

The man’s wife sat on a chair on the stoop of their home across the street from the scene, rocking back and forth.

“He was a family man,” his relatives said. He also earned recognition for fixing cars around the neighborhood, they said.

The man was among two people killed and three wounded from Wednesday to early Thursday.

In an earlier homicide, a 19-year-old man was shot and killed Wednesday afternoon near Washington Park on the South Side, according to Chicago police.

The teen was shot in the head around 2:15 p.m. in the 5200 block of South Cottage Grove Avenue, police said. He was pronounced dead at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

A woman at the scene asked an officer if the victim might be her son who was walking to catch a bus, but the officer said the teen was in a car with three other people.

Witnesses said he was sitting in a blue BMW when a car pulled up and someone inside fired.

“It weighs on me a lot,” said Rita Tabb, a woman who has lived in nearby Hyde Park for two years. “I feel like this area’s safe but you gotta watch your surroundings now.”
Tabb was meeting her 12-year-old daughter on the corner where the shooting happened. Tabb said she regularly meets her at the intersection. She attends Kozminski Community Academy a few blocks away.

Another passerby noted that tents for the UniverSoul Circus were set up a block away, drawing even more children to the area at the time of the attack.

“It kind of concerned me because you got the circus right there and it’s daylight,” said the woman, who did not want to be identified. “But it’s not even about it happening here. If you’re a target, you can be over by Obama. They don’t care about people out at circuses, kids at school. They just trying to get who they get and go on.”
In other shootings:

• Around 6:10 p.m. Wednesday on the Soutwest Side, a 19-year-old man was shot in the right leg in the 6300 block of South Lawler Avenue in the Chrysler Village neighborhood, police said. He was in good condition at Holy Cross Hospital. The teen was walking with a friend when someone shot at him from a dark-colored vehicle, police said.

• About 5:20 p.m. on the South Side, a 16-year-old boy accidentally shot himself in the head while handling a gun in the 7700 block of South Peoria Street in the Gresham neighborhood. He was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where he was in serious condition.

• Around 3:15 p.m., an 18-year-old man was shot while walking down the street in the Little Village neighborhood, police said. Two people approached the 18-year-old and one of them pulled a gun and fired at him in the 2200 block of South California Avenue, police said. The teen was struck in the buttocks and thigh, and he was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where his condition was stabilized, police said.

Article Org: Chicagotribune.com

1 Dead, 8 Wounded in Shootings on Monday in Chicago

(Chicago Tribune) One person is dead and eight others were wounded in separate shootings across the city between Monday and early Tuesday, according to police. A male, whose exact age was not released, died at Northwestern Memorial Hospital after he was shot in the head and chest, police said. He was rushed to the hospital…

70, Cook County Sheriff’s Sent to Patrol Crime Ravaged Gresham Neighborhood

(Chicago Tribune) The black religious leaders listened intently last week as the police official discussed crime in the Gresham (6th) police district on Chicago’s South Side. But the officer who stood before them in the banquet room wasn’t wearing the familiar checkerboard hat or distinctive blue uniform of Chicago police. Instead, a Cook County sheriff’s…

2 Dead, 26 Wounded in Weekend Shootings across Chicago

(Sun Times Wire) Two men were killed and at least 26 other people were wounded in shootings across Chicago between Friday afternoon and Monday morning. The weekend’s latest killing happened at 8:34 p.m. Sunday in the Austin neighborhood on the West Side. Officers responded to a call of a person shot and found the man…

3, Stabbed, 1 Fatally in Marquette Park

(Chicago Tribune) Police were questioning a suspect after a 36-year-old woman was stabbed to death and two men were injured in a family fight Saturday evening, police said. The three were stabbed about 5:40 p.m. in the 3300 block of West Marquette Road, police said in a media notification. The woman suffered a stab wound…

3 People Shot at a Taco Burrito King Restaurant in Greektown

(CBS) Three people were shot when a man opened fire during a fight early Saturday inside a Greektown restaurant. The three people were fighting at 4:21 a.m. inside a restaurant in the 800 block of West Jackson when one of them fired shots, according to Chicago Police. A 31-year-old man was shot in the chest…

13 Wounded in Shootings across Chicago on Friday

(ABC) At least 13 people have been wounded in shootings across Chicago since Friday afternoon. The weekend’s latest shooting happened Saturday morning in the Lawndale neighborhood on the West Side. Two men, ages 18 and 22, were shot at 11:17 a.m. in the 1300-block of South Millard, according to Chicago Police. The 18-year-old was shot…

3 Dead, 3 Wounded in Shootings on Thursday

(Chicago Tribune) Three men were shot dead and three other people were wounded in attacks in Chicago between Thursday morning and early Friday, including a 16-year-old boy grazed in the head, Chicago police said. Antonio Barrett, 30, was shot in the head about 4:45 p.m. Thursday, police said. He was on foot in the 1600…

9 Wounded in Shootings on Tuesday in Chicago

(Sun Times Wire) Nine people were injured in shootings Tuesday on Chicago’s South and West sides. The day’s latest shooting happened about 11:30 p.m. in the McKinley Park neighborhood on the South Side. A 17-year-old boy was shot in the left hand near 37th and Hoyne, according to Chicago Police. The circumstances of the shooting…

9 Dead, 13 Wounded in Weekend Shootings across Chicago

(Chicago Tribune) A 64-year-old teacher killed by a stray bullet. A young mother slain on the front steps of her home. A grade school girl shot and critically wounded in the chest, apparently by accident. They were among the 22 people shot in Chicago over the weekend. Nine of them died. The latest gun violence…

2 Dead, 7 Wounded in Shootings on Thursday across Chicago

(Chicago Tribune) The man, dead from a gunshot wound to the neck, remained in the silver SUV as police investigated the Southwest Side shooting early Thursday. A woman who lived nearby retrieved a pink blanket from her home and gave it to police. Officers draped it over the driver’s side window. Police say the man…

1 Dead, 6 Wounded in Shootings on Wednesday across Chicago

(Sun Times Wire) A man was killed and at least six other people were wounded in shootings Wednesday across Chicago. Officers responding to calls of shots fired about 8:30 p.m. found the 28-year-old man shot multiple times in the 100 block of South Western on the Near West Side, according to Chicago Police. He was…

How Chicago Gang Members Get The GUNS

(Sun Times Wire) John Thomas set up the deal the way he had arranged nearly two dozen others. A friend said he wanted to buy as many guns as he could, so Thomas got in touch with someone he knew who had guns to sell. The three of them met in the parking lot of an LA Fitness in ...

(Sun Times Wire) John Thomas set up the deal the way he had arranged nearly two dozen others. A friend said he wanted to buy as many guns as he could, so Thomas got in touch with someone he knew who had guns to sell.

The three of them met in the parking lot of an LA Fitness in Lansing at noon on Aug. 6, 2014. Larry McIntosh, whom Thomas had met in his South Shore neighborhood, took two semi-automatic rifles and a shotgun from his car and put them in the buyer’s car. He handed over a plastic shopping bag with four handguns.

None of the weapons had been acquired legally — two, in fact, had been reported stolen — and none of the men was a licensed firearms dealer.

Thomas’s friend paid McIntosh $7,200 for the seven guns. He always paid well.

Thomas did little but watch the exchange, but he got his usual broker’s fee of $100 per gun, $700 total. It was “the most money I’ve seen or made,” he recalled — his biggest deal yet.

It was also his last

Amid Chicago’s ongoing epidemic of gun violence — with 494 fatal shootings and 2,866 people shot this year through the end of September — the availability of guns has been blamed as a root cause and become a defining political and public safety issue.

Chicago police say they’ve seized nearly 7,000 illegal firearms this year, and federal authorities have stepped up efforts to take down dealers.

Still, it’s by no means clear that targeting those like John Thomas makes a real difference.

Most of the guns police seize in Chicago come from Indiana and other states where firearms laws are more lax, police and researchers have found. After they were purchased legally, most were sold or loaned or stolen. Typically, individuals or small groups are involved in the dealing, not organized trafficking rings, experts say.

Unlike the drug trade — often dominated by powerful cartels or gangs — illegal gun markets operate more like the way teenagers get beer, “where every adult is potentially a source,” said Philip Cook, a researcher at the University of Chicago Crime Lab who’s also a Duke University professor.

Under pressure to respond to the violence, law enforcement has focused on making examples of people caught selling, buying or possessing guns. But authorities acknowledge that these cases do little to stem the flow of guns into the city.

“You are a single salmon swimming upstream at Niagara Falls,” said Anthony Guglielmi, a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department. “If your policing strategy is to decrease the number of guns in your city, good luck, because there are too many guns out there. It’s better to go after the person with the gun.”

An in-depth examination of Thomas’ case — based on police reports, court records and interviews, including a series of conversations with Thomas — shows how authorities target mostly street-level offenders, sometimes enticing them with outsize payoffs. In this and other cases, critics say their techniques raise questions of whether they are dismantling gun networks or effectively helping to set them up.

“You have this specter of whether it’s creating crime, which is troubling to a lot of people,” said Katharine Tinto, a professor at the University of California Irvine School of Law who has studied the investigative tactics of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “It’s not as if you’re trying to get someone you know is a violent gun offender. You’re going after someone and purposely trying to entice them into doing a felony.”

At 33, John Thomas has a charming smile that sometimes displays his chipped front tooth. His mother’s name, Val, is tattooed on his left forearm — a tribute to her for bringing him into the world, though he said he could never count on her. His daughter’s name, Jataviyona, is tattooed on his right shoulder.

Even as a kid, Thomas was a natural salesman, quick with a hustle.

“That’s my gift, I guess — to sell,” he said.

He grew up in the part of South Shore known as “Terror Town.” A short walk from a popular Lake Michigan beach, it’s long been a mix of middle-class homeowners and lower-income renters, with bungalows, condominiums and multi-unit apartment buildings on tree-lined streets.

By the time Thomas was growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, the neighborhood was struggling. Many white homeowners and business owners had fled after African-Americans moved in.

Thousands of people in South Shore and surrounding communities lost their jobs when the nearby steel mills closed. When the crack epidemic hit in the early 1990s, gang violence soared.

Thomas’ father wasn’t around, and his mother struggled with addiction, according to Thomas and his younger sister, Sade Thomas-Adams. With five other siblings, Thomas was raised by an aunt and uncle he considered his parents.

Thomas’ uncle was a pastor, and the family spent a lot of time at church, giving him a lifelong faith. During the week, the kids were told to focus on their studies and come home right after school to avoid the dangers of gangs and drugs. Thomas and some of his siblings chafed at the rules, escaping from the house to hang out with friends, drink and smoke marijuana.

“They had their foot in both worlds — the church and the street,” said Thomas-Adams.

Thomas developed his first hustle while in grammar school, he said. He and his friends would offer to help shoppers with their bags and carts outside an Aldi supermarket. He learned he could talk to people and earn tips.

Thomas graduated to other ways of making money. First, he said, he sold baggies of fake marijuana. Eventually, neighborhood dealers set him up with real drugs.

In November 2001, when he was 17, Thomas was arrested for selling $20 worth of crack cocaine to an undercover police officer and was convicted and given probation. That was one in a long string of arrests, including a 2005 gun possession conviction.

Thomas began to sell marijuana and developed a successful promotional strategy. When customers bought a nickel bag — a small quantity for $5 — he gave them another for free.

“Two for five,” was how he marketed it. His profits, he said, came from volume.

“Everybody wanted it,” he said.

When he was 20, Thomas began to hang around a new convenience store so much the family who ran it offered him a job. Once again, he put his people skills to work. The store sold knockoff gym shoes, but some people didn’t want to come there because it would mean crossing gang lines.

“So I’m taking the shoes to them,” Thomas said. “I’m selling them shoes left and right.”

Gang violence was a stubborn problem in the neighborhood and moved ever closer to Thomas. At 16, he said he witnessed a fatal shooting. At 18, an acquaintance killed one of Thomas’ friends. Then, at 22, his best friend from childhood was gunned down.

Thomas said he tried to steer clear of guns.

“I know what they have done to people,” he said.

In late 2013, Thomas was desperate. Then 29, he was a father and the primary caretaker of his daughter, trying to leave criminal life behind. For several years, he’d worked low-paying jobs at restaurants, grocery stores and an uncle’s construction business, but he struggled to pay his rent. As a convicted felon, options were limited.

Then, he met Yousef.

Thomas had taken a job at a tobacco shop in Beverly, making $25 a day, he said. He hit it off with one of the guys who hung around the store. Yousef was in his 20s and, like Thomas, joked a lot. They started smoking marijuana together. Thomas said Yousef — who, through his lawyer, declined to comment — knew he was broke. Yousef told Thomas he could help — if Thomas helped him.

“He comes in and asks me about guns,” Thomas said. “I said that where I’m from, we don’t sell guns.”

But Thomas said Yousef kept bringing it up. At some point, he said, Yousef told him he knew a businessman named Pops who could give Thomas a real job if he helped them.

What finally persuaded Thomas, he said, was the dollar-store diapers he’d been buying for his daughter: They sometimes gave his daughter hives. He saw the diapers as a sign he was stuck, and his daughter was paying for it.

“It was just hard,” he said. “Too hard.”

Thomas made his first call — to one of his cousins — in January 2014. Steven Thomas, 38, had served time for attempted murder in his early 20s, court records show. Now, he was trying to rebuild his life. After earning an associate’s degree in prison, he was working to support his family and taking classes to become a massage therapist.

Thomas asked if his cousin knew anyone with guns to sell.

“The first thing he asked me was, ‘Is everything OK?’” John Thomas recalled.

He said his cousin wasn’t sure at first but called back the next day: He’d come up with a couple of guns. John Thomas got in touch with Yousef and introduced him to his cousin at the tobacco shop. He said they went to the back of the store, and when his cousin left a few minutes later, Yousef paid John Thomas $200 for arranging the deal.

“Just for a call,” Thomas said. “I didn’t even have to do nothing.”

Thomas, giddy, said he used the money to buy food, baby formula and better diapers.

What Thomas didn’t know was that Yousef had paid Steven Thomas $400 for a Glock 9mm pistol — then immediately resold the gun for $800, court records show. Even after he paid Thomas, Yousef made a quick $200.

Everyone seemed to come out ahead. So the next day, the three men did it all again. Thomas talked with his cousin, who then sold two guns to Yousef, and Thomas made $100. Yousef then sold the guns to Pops for $1,600, twice what he’d just paid for them.

To Thomas, it was easy money — money he needed.

Thomas didn’t know, though, that Yousef was being watched by federal agents.

In January 2014, shortly before Yousef approached Thomas, the ATF had launched an initiative in Chicago to “attack violent crime associated with illegal firearms and narcotics.” As part of that effort, the ATF called on a longtime informant.

“Confidential Informant 1,” as he was identified by federal prosecutors, is not named in court records. He had worked for the government for nearly a decade, since being indicted for fraud and agreeing to cooperate. Gray-haired and squat, the informant posed as a businessman who wanted to buy weapons he could sell overseas, according to undercover ATF recordings and court records.

One of the people he approached about getting guns was Yousef. Authorities have not said why they targeted Yousef and why the informant’s cover story involved selling guns overseas.

Through a spokeswoman, the ATF declined to comment.

In January and February 2014, Yousef met with the informant, whom he knew as Pops, eight times for deals that involved 13 guns, according to court records. Some of those deals involved guns Thomas helped Yousef buy from Thomas’ cousin, the records show.

That March, ATF agents confronted Yousef: With Pops’ help, they had been monitoring his gun deals. Yousef faced the possibility of going to prison for unlicensed gun dealing. Or he could work for the government.

Yousef agreed to cooperate. In court records, he became “CI-3” and has not been identified by last name in Thomas’ case. From March to July 2014, the government paid Yousef a total of $6,380 for “living and operational expenses” in addition to the money he used to buy the guns, court records show.

Yousef got to work lining up more gun deals, continuing to use Thomas as his primary, but not only, middleman. After his cousin, Thomas brought in an old friend: Anthony Logan, whom everyone called Snake. Thomas told Logan he knew someone who often overpaid for guns.

In the spring and summer of 2014, Thomas, Yousef and Pops did several deals with Logan, who introduced them to other friends. When those sources dried up, Thomas arranged quick exchanges in an alley with people he didn’t know himself. There were handoffs in parking lots and a trip to Gary, Indiana, where the deal nearly unraveled and Thomas, hoping to salvage it, wandered the streets until he found the seller.

After each sale, Yousef met with ATF agents and turned over he guns and recording equipment he had secretly been wearing, according to court records.

As the money kept coming in, Thomas overlooked warning signs. One seller even tried to tell him he might be dealing with informants.

“My people are leery about you all,” Thomas told Yousef after talking with a gun source in the south suburbs, according to an ATF report. “They say you all the feds.”
Yousef vowed that he wouldn’t do any more business with that supplier.

Still, Yousef seemed willing to buy anything. While some of the deals produced semi-automatic rifles and high-powered handguns, he also bought guns that were rusty or had missing parts. On one occasion, Thomas even got Yousef to pay $700 for what turned out to be a BB gun — another warning sign Thomas ignored.

That summer, as politicians struggled to deal with violence in the city, Mayor Rahm Emanuel appealed to the Obama administration for help getting guns off the street. The ATF responded by announcing it was sending seven additional agents to Chicago.

At the same time, the number of sales Thomas had brokered passed 20, and he had to expand his sources to continue producing guns. He reached out to Larry McIntosh, the friend of a friend from the neighborhood.

McIntosh proved to be a consistent source. He sold Yousef more than two dozen guns in the summer of 2014 and promised even bigger deals through a connection in Indiana.

That August, he offered a package of at least 14 guns. Yousef and Thomas were set to make the buy on Aug. 26, according to ATF records. But Thomas said Yousef called him at home that morning and asked if they could meet for breakfast to talk about a job offer from Pops. Wearing a favorite Blackhawks shirt and nice jeans, Thomas stepped outside.

“It was, like, 5 in the morning,” Thomas recalled. “I see a gray PT cruiser [with] a white lady, she’s got a computer, and I’m thinking, what is she doing in this neighborhood at this time of the morning? I look on my left, and I see a gray van, and there’s some white guys in it, and I say, ‘Whoa, whoa, this is not right.’ ”

Moments later, one of his uncles arrived to give Thomas a ride, and they left. They had gone only a few blocks when police lights flashed behind them. Thomas was whisked to an ATF facility, where he was read his rights and questioned by two agents, according to the ATF’s video of the interrogation.

The agents told him he would be charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

“Me personally, I ain’t been doing nothing,” Thomas protested.

The agent leading the questioning showed Thomas a picture. “There’s you, holding a gun.”

After a long pause, Thomas said, “I didn’t buy nothing.”

“You didn’t have to buy anything,” the agent said. “We have you on video, holding guns. You set up all the deals.”

Thomas wanted to know if Yousef was working with agents from the beginning.

One of the agents said no but encouraged Thomas to become an informant. Thomas refused.

The next day, the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago announced 14 arrests on federal charges of illegally possessing or selling guns. Thomas was listed as the top defendant, followed by 13 other men involved in the deals with Yousef, including Logan, McIntosh and Steven Thomas.

If officials knew the original sources for the guns, they were not named in the court records.

In 2015, one at a time, the men entered guilty pleas. McIntosh — who two decades earlier was convicted of involuntary manslaughter after he accidentally shot a woman in the head — was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Logan got eight years and four months. Others received between 18 months and eight years.

In every case, prosecutors noted the gun violence battering Chicago and called for sentences long enough to send a message.

Many of the defendants, through their lawyers, insisted they had never sold guns until Yousef started offering to buy them.

“The government is not seeking to arrest those who are unlawfully selling weapons but effectively making gun dealers out of street-level hustlers by paying three and four times the street value of guns,” Ralph Schindler Jr., who represented Logan, said in a court filing.

The ATF’s tactics are, in some ways, similar to how federal authorities battle other issues. With political corruption, they have used cooperating witnesses to offer bribes to elected officials. Fighting terrorism, they have contacted and enticed disaffected young men to discuss possible plots. Whether any of those targets would have acted without prodding is hotly debated following an arrest.

The ATF spokeswoman would not discuss the agency’s broader strategies.

“We try to hit the top people as much as we can,” said a federal law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They’re tough cases to prove. If we can get them on one gun, we can get them off the street.”

Wesley Pickett, who is serving eight years for helping Yousef buy guns, admits he was wrong to get involved. But he argues that putting people like him in prison will not stem the flow of weapons.

“Getting a gun in the city,” he said in a letter from a federal prison in Pennsylvania, “is like buying a pack of cigarettes at a gas station.”

Yousef, too, pleaded guilty to unlicensed firearms dealing. He has not yet been sentenced.

After three months in jail following his arrest, Thomas made bail and, in spite of his pending case, got a job as a stocker at a Family Dollar store in Englewood. Within the year, he was promoted to manager.

Thomas blames himself for going after the money in the gun deals. But he doesn’t believe he played a role in Chicago’s gun violence. Though he is streetwise from years running his hustles, he said he believed Yousef’s claims that the guns weren’t headed for the streets. In time, Thomas said he stopped thinking about what was happening to the guns.

“Honestly, after a while, once [Yousef] told me that, I didn’t really care no more,” he said. “I just knew that my daughter was straight.”

As it turned out, the guns never got back to the street. The ATF bought or collected all of the guns Yousef purchased through Thomas.

In March, Thomas pleaded guilty to two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm and one count of unlicensed firearms dealing. Prosecutors said that, over the course of seven months, he brokered 23 transactions involving 77 guns.

He faced 25 years in prison.

In August, Thomas went before U.S. District Judge Andrea Wood to be sentenced. Wearing a tan suit, tan shirt and blue tie, Thomas was accompanied by his daughter, the aunt who raised him, other family members and his pastor. At one point during the sentencing, he wept.

Nicole Kim, the federal prosecutor, gave him credit for working and caring for his daughter, then 4, but argued that a message should be sent that “if you need extra money, if you need a job, this is not OK.”

“He’s not proud of what he did,” said Heather Winslow, Thomas’ attorney. “But absent the influence of the government’s buy money, this crime would not have happened.”
Given the chance to speak, Thomas became emotional.

“People make mistakes, and I did,” he said. “I’m not a gun salesman.”

The judge noted that the government played a role in every deal for which Thomas was being sentenced. But, in spite of the government’s involvement, she told him he should have said no.

“It is difficult in some ways to reconcile the responsible worker and father I’ve seen in my courtroom with the person who would be willing to move 77 firearms,” Wood said.

The sentence: seven years in prison. She allowed Thomas to spend several weeks with his daughter before beginning his sentence.
On Monday, he reported to a medium-security federal prison in central Illinois.

Article Org: Chicago.suntimes.com