A reputed gang member has been arrested for his alleged role in the shooting of two plainclothes Chicago police officers earlier this week in the South Side’s Back of the Yards neighborhood, the Chicago Tribune has learned.
The 18-year-old man was believed to be the driver of a Chrysler minivan that was involved in the Tuesday night shooting in the 4300 block of South Ashland Avenue, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
The suspected shooter — a passenger in the minivan who investigators believe used a military-style semi-automatic rifle to shoot the two Deering District tactical officers — remains at large.
It’s unclear whether the shooter knew the unmarked, covert van carried officers or he thought they were rival gang members, police said.
The man believed to be the driver was arrested Friday, but no charges have been filed as of Saturday afternoon. A source said the driver and shooter are reputed members of the La Raza street gang, one of four Hispanic gangs believed to be responsible for about three dozen shootings tied to semi-automatic rifles in Back of the Yards and the nearby Brighton Park neighborhood since early 2016.
The two tactical officers — one wounded in the arm and hip and the other in the back — were shot shortly after 9 p.m. Tuesday.
The officers returned fire, but they apparently didn’t hit anyone, the department said. Their van was riddled with bullet holes, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi has said.
Both officers were released from Stroger Hospital the next day. One of them is the son of a high-ranking Chicago police official.
Police believe there was only one shooter who opened fire from the Chrysler minivan, according to a source familiar with the case. Police have been looking into whether the officers were followed just before the shooting.
The minivan was found by police Tuesday night after the shooting near 37th Street and Racine Avenue in the Bridgeport neighborhood, less than 2 miles away, and a rifle was recovered nearby, police have said.
Investigators have reviewed video from surveillance cameras at two businesses near the shooting scene to try to determine whether the shooting was recorded, employees said.
The officers were investigating a gang-related shooting that occurred earlier in the evening about 6:30 p.m. near 18th and Halsted streets in the Pilsen neighborhood, about 3 1/2 miles northeast from where the officers were shot, police said. In that earlier shooting, a 15-year-old boy was wounded in the left leg. Police said either that victim or people he was with at the time were affiliated with La Raza.
In February, the Tribune reported that gangs in Back of the Yards and Brighton Park were increasingly using rifles. Police said that was the only area of the city where rifles styled after AR-15s and AK-47s were regularly used, a menacing new development in the gang fights.
At the time, there were more than 30 shootings believed to have been tied to semi-automatic rifles in Back of the Yards and neighboring Brighton Park over the previous nine months. At least 46 people were shot in those attacks, 13 fatally.
Police suspected the rifles were being passed around by members of four rival Hispanic gangs in the area — La Raza, the Almighty Saints, Satan Disciples and Gangster Two-Six.
Before Tuesday, the last time a Chicago police officer was shot was Nov. 27 in the West Garfield Park neighborhood on the West Side. That officer suffered a graze wound to the forehead while police exchanged gunfire with Richard Grimes. Officers fatally shot Grimes, 33, who police said had just shot his pregnant fiancee in the abdomen.
Article Org: chicagotribune.com