Berwyn police chief: Prosecutors are “managing a catch and release program”

The police chief of west suburban Berwyn wrote a lengthy Facebook post Wednesday after Cook County prosecutors refused to file charges against one of three persons he says were involved in a shooting there last week.

Chief Michael D. Cimaglia said the juvenile that prosecutors refused to charge “is currently out on bond for two previous shooting and firearm arrests.”

“The Assistant State’s Attorney’s Office appears to be managing a catch and release program,” Cimaglia wrote.

But a spokesperson for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said the evidence Berwyn police presented to support charges against the teen, “was insufficient to allow the case to be sent to court.”

Cimaglia’s post illustrates a contrast between suburban law enforcement leaders, who are sometimes directly confrontational with county prosecutors, and city leaders whose criticisms are usually more roundabout.

During the shooting on August 17, a man was shot in his foot, and another victim was uninjured when a bullet passed through his shorts without striking his body, Cimaglia wrote.

Berwyn investigators used video footage to identify three offenders and their vehicle, according to the chief. Fernando Diaz, an 18-year-old from Chicago, a juvenile from Berwyn, and another Berwyn teen who’s on bond for shooting and firearm arrests were arrested, he said.

Prosecutors charged Diaz and the first juvenile with aggravated battery with a firearm, according to Cimaglia, and his officers petitioned the second teen into juvenile court for the same charge.

But the juvenile with pending gun and shooting charges “has been released and all criminal charges have been dismissed by the Juvenile Assistant State’s Attorney Supervisor without or before having a Probable Cause Hearing,” Cimaglia wrote.

“In doing so, a violent offender has been released by the State back onto the City Streets of Berwyn,” he continued.

A spokesperson for Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office told CWBChicago that Berwyn’s case against the second teen didn’t hold up.

“Unlike the cases of two other offenders where we did approve charges, the admissible evidence presented to us in the case of the juvenile third offender was insufficient to allow the case to be sent to court,” the spokesperson said.

Cimaglia’s Facebook post took aim at “some Assistant State’s Attorneys [who] just refuse to try to prosecute a case unless the case is gift wrapped with a nice bow on it.”

“Some additional diligence on the State’s Attorney’s part in preventing the offenders from being released back onto the street is what is needed, for the safety and wellbeing of all Berwyn residents and citizens,” he continued.

Foxx’s spokesperson countered that prosecutors have “approved 100% of the Berwyn Police Department’s requests to charge adult offenders with aggravated battery with a firearm and 91% of their requests to charge adult offenders with unlawful use of a weapon” this year.

Here is the full text of Cimaglia’s post:

SHOOTING INCIDENT

At approximately 5:50 PM on Monday, August 17, 2020 the Berwyn Police Department responded to a shooting at 27th Street and Home Avenue.  Responding officers located two adult victims, victim #1, was shot in his foot and victim #2 was uninjured however a bullet passed through his shorts but never struck his body.  Officers immediately sought medical attention for the injured victim and began a canvass for witnesses and video footage.

Criminal Investigators received an anonymous TIP through the City of Berwyn Police Department’s on-line TIP site.  Through the investigation, Detectives located the original altercation between the victims and three suspects who were driving in a grey van.  It was learned that the altercation began at a gas station in Riverside where the victims’ got into an argument with the occupants of the van.  The victims were walking home when the van approached them, traveling south on Home Avenue and turning west onto 27th Street.  As the van was approaching the intersection a passenger who was in the van began shooting at the victims.  The van then fled the area west on 27th Street.  This was an isolated incident stemming from an altercation that originated outside of Berwyn.

Through several recovered videos, Investigators were able to identify the offenders and the offending vehicle.  The offenders were identified as offender #1, the driver, Fernando Diaz, of Chicago, offender #2, a Berwyn Juvenile resident, and Offender #3, a Berwyn Juvenile resident who is currently out on bond for two previous shooting and firearm arrests.  As of August 26, 2020, all three offenders have been arrested.  The adult driver Fernando Diaz has been criminally charged with one count of Aggravated Battery with a Firearm.  Juvenile Offender #2 has been criminally charged as an adult with Aggravated Battery with a Firearm.  Juvenile Offender #3, was petitioned into Juvenile Court for Aggravated Discharge of a Firearm.    Offender #3 has been released and all criminal charges have been dismissed by the Juvenile Assistant State’s Attorney Supervisor without or before having a Probable Cause Hearing, and in doing so a violent offender has been released by the State back onto the City Streets of Berwyn.

It appears that the break down is within the State’s Attorney’s Office.  Some Assistant State’s Attorneys just refuse to try to prosecute a case unless the case is gift wrapped with a nice bow on it.  Some additional diligence on the State’s Attorney’s part in preventing the offenders from being released back onto the street is what is needed, for the safety and wellbeing of all Berwyn residents and citizens. State’s Attorney Foxx stated that she wants to focus on more violent criminal offenses; well I believe that a shooting or shooting at somebody is a more violent criminal act and these offenders need to be held accountable and kept off of our streets.  The Assistant State’s Attorney’s Office appears to be managing a catch and release program.

Michael D. Cimaglia
Chief of Police

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