Chi-town — According to court documents, two men who were passengers in a car hijacked in Chicago this year and used by a gunman to fire shots at a police officer in the Loop have pleaded guilty to felonies related to the incident.
The case against Edgardo Perez, 25, which stems from an incident on January 26th, remains active. Noel Centeno, the car’s driver, pleaded guilty to possessing a stolen motor vehicle, and Jesse Sanchez, who was riding shotgun, pleaded guilty to aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, according to court documents.
An 8:48 p.m. encounter between police and a Honda Accord in the traffic lanes of Lower Wacker Drive near Columbus Drive was captured on camera by a city surveillance camera and first reported by CWBChicago. According to the CPD report, the Accord was stolen from the 1400 block of West Farwell a week prior.
According to the prosecution, an officer who approached the vehicle from the passenger side and ordered the occupants to show their hands was recorded by the officer’s body camera. In the process of backing into the vehicle that had stopped behind the Accord, Perez allegedly fired a handgun at a nearby police officer from the passenger seat.
Perez Was Immediately Shot In The Chest, Arm, And Leg By Two Other Officers. His Forehead Was Also Hit By The Bullet
Prosecutors claim the passenger fired through the closed passenger-side window, striking a police officer in the eye with shards of glass. Even though the officer was not hit by the bullet, he still needed treatment for his eye injuries at Rush University Medical Center. The officer had a heart rate that was too high, so they took him to Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
Driver Centeno allegedly told police that he discovered the vehicle on Howard Street with the keys inside, and that he has no idea how long he has had possession of it. He said he didn’t rob any cars. He was wanted for a felony gun charge at the time of the Loop incident, but prosecutors claim he was missing.
Judge Aleksandra Gillespie agreed to reduce Centeno’s sentence from four years to two years in prison after he pleaded guilty to possession of a stolen motor vehicle as part of a plea bargain with prosecutors. According to court documents, he also admitted guilt in the earlier gun case and was given a two-year sentence. He will be eligible for parole in October 2024, after having served roughly half of his sentence.
Prosecutors also claim that officers discovered a chrome revolver in the backseat, close to Sanchez. Sanchez allegedly told police he didn’t recognize the car but acknowledged that his fingerprints would be all over the revolver.
In exchange for his guilty plea, he was given a year in prison for the aggravated unlawful use of a weapon while operating a motor vehicle. On August 2, he turned himself into Stateville Correctional Center and was released that same day after serving time there previously.
Prosecutors Say Surveillance Footage Proves The Shooting Happened
Surveillance footage was reviewed as part of the investigation by the Cook County state’s attorney’s office. “Based on the facts, the evidence, and the law, it is our position that the officers involved in this incident did not have provocation or justification to shoot the unarmed victim during this incident,” said Foxx.
Assistant State’s Attorney Alyssa Janicki read the prosecution’s statement to the press after the bail hearing. The two officers, according to the prosecution, were in an unmarked car on their way to a police training course on the morning of July 22 when they observed a group of men walking. Janicki said that they were asked what they were doing when they were approached by a group of people outside of a closed business. Foxx had previously stated that neither officer was equipped with a body camera.
She said that Medina and a juvenile walked toward the police car and that the youth “wore a satchel crisscrossed across his body, which contained a firearm.” The minor kept the gun in his hand as they got closer to the car belonging to the defendants. The victim, identified as Medina, was found with a cell phone and a wine bottle in one hand and nothing in the other. According to Janicki, Medina continued walking to the car while the juvenile turned around and ran away.
On reaching the passenger side, Medina showed the officers the cell phone and wine bottle in one hand while waving with the other.
They then fired “multiple shots” at Medina from inside the car, hitting him in the back and the leg. After a fall, Medina was destroyed. Janicki stated that the juvenile kept running across the street and eventually fired at the officers, who then opened fire in return.
She reported that a pedestrian was injured, suffering a graze wound to the leg. Janicki stated that the officers were interviewed after the Chicago Police Department approached her office to file charges against the minor.
Officers initially told detectives that they opened fire because “they were fired upon by the juvenile.” They told the detective and the assistant state’s attorney that they didn’t know who fired first, but that the teen had pointed the gun at them just before shots were fired.
Janicki stated that her office received surveillance footage several days after the shooting that directly contradicted the defendants’ statements to the detectives. Janicki said the footage showed the juvenile fleeing the vehicle after “the defendants discharged their weapons at the victim” as he stood in the street with his hands outstretched, one empty and the other holding the cell phone and the wine bottle.
Foxx: We Can’t Turn a Blind Eye To Random Acts Of Violence
Our dedication to justice and fairness at the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office is what has brought us here today. Foxx emphasized that the department does not “celebrate” the charging of police officers and that it does not view the responsibility lightly. Every day, the brave men and women of the Chicago Police Department, along with their law enforcement partners in Cook County, put their lives on the line to keep us safe.
According to Foxx, “we cannot ignore or stand by acts of unprovoked violence even at the hands of those who are sworn to serve and protect our communities.”
Both officers are experts in their field and work for the Chicago Police Department’s major accidents investigations unit. Reynoso has been with the organization since 2003, and Liakopoulos has been there since 2001.
Chicago police told CNN they have removed the officers’ police powers but declined to comment on the specifics of the case.
Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge 7 President John Catanzara Jr. said, “Two of our officers were indicted by Kim Foxx for doing their job,” in a video posted to YouTube. They were in the midst of a gunfight with an armed criminal, and they had already begun firing at the man. As of Friday, CNN’s multiple requests for comment from Catanzaro had gone unanswered.
Additionally, the Chicago Civilian Office of Police Accountability is looking into what happened. The shooting videos will likely be made available to the public within the next week. WBBM said the officers’ lawyers had asked a judge to block the video’s release.
On Friday, a Cook County judge found not guilty of weapons charges the man accused of shooting at a car while standing next to Adam Toledo, 13, moments before the teen was fatally shot by a Chicago police officer last year.
This week, 23-year-old Ruben Roman stood trial on unrelated charges to Toledo’s death, which sparked protests and calls for reform to the Chicago Police Department’s foot pursuit policies.
Roman instead faces four felony counts related to his time with Toledo before the shooting occurred: three counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and one count of recklessly discharging a firearm.
According to the Chicago Tribune, prosecutors claimed that Roman fired the rounds that drew the attention of the officer, and that the gloves he dropped contained gunshot residue.