“Affordable”: More men charged with violent crimes while out on bail

As leaders continue to insist that Cook County’s “affordable bail” program is not contributing to the city’s surging violence problem, observers who watch daily bond court proceedings are seeing something much different.

Just last week, Aaron Okelola was charged with the attempted murder of a police officer for allegedly dragging a cop with his car and crashing into the 95th Street Red Line station. The crash was captured on video.

Okelola, 25, was free on bail for a pending felony narcotics case at the time of the crash and he’s on probation for being a felon in possession of a firearm, according to court records.

Other recent bond court defendants were on affordable bail for allegedly committing crimes far more serious than narcotics — crimes like robbery and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Here are some examples:

Accused of murder while on electronic monitoring

Fabian Diaz, a 17-year-old, appeared in adult bond court Sunday to face murder charges as an adult. He’s accused of fatally shooting a man while on electronic monitoring in a juvenile gun possession case. 

In fact, prosecutors said the GPS tracker in Diaz’s electronic monitoring bracelet helped them determine that he was the gunman and allowed them to align his whereabouts with video evidence.

On October 16, Diaz and an accomplice stepped out of a Toyota Camry and opened fire on a 47-year-old man who was standing outside a party on the city’s West Side, prosecutors said. The murder was allegedly gang-related.

Investigators tracked Diaz’s GPS monitor to the shooting scene and then to his home, prosecutors said. Video footage allegedly shows him firing the gun and getting out of the Toyota Camry at his house after the killing.

The murder took place about a month after a juvenile court judge put Diaz on electronic monitoring for allegedly having a gun in his waistband during a police traffic stop.

Judge Susana Ortiz set his bail at $2 million in the murder case and, ironically, ordered him to go onto electronic monitoring if he posts the mandatory $200,000 deposit bond.

Shooting into apartment

Carl Vardaman | CPD

Carl Vardaman, 22, was on affordable bail while awaiting trial for being a felon in possession of a weapon when he allegedly opened fire on a relative’s apartment last month. He was previously convicted of unlawful use of a weapon in 2015 and 2016, prosecutors said during his bond court appearance last week.

Vardaman was asked to leave his uncle’s West Side apartment on the afternoon of November 22 after the uncle allegedly saw Vardaman reaching into his waistband for a handgun. The uncle pushed Vardaman out of the apartment and closed the door.

Prosecutors say Vardaman began kicking on the apartment door and then fired several shots through the door into his uncle’s apartment. His relatives ran out the back door and called police. No one was injured.

When police arrived, they allegedly found Vardaman standing outside his uncle’s apartment door. Eight shell casings were lying on the floor. Vardaman asked the officers why they had their guns drawn, then he lifted his shirt to expose a firearm, prosecutors said.

Vardaman allegedly reached for the gun with his right hand and grabbed it with his fingers on the handle and his index finger near the trigger. He then turned toward the officers, “slightly lifted the gun toward his chest area and made a slight step toward the officers” with the gun in his right hand, an assistant state’s attorney said.

When cops ordered Vardaman to drop the gun, he threw it onto the stairs, lifted his legs over the stairwell railing, and jumped down one level, prosecutors said. He then ran out the door. Cops caught up with him a short time later. 

Prosecutors have now charged Vardaman with armed habitual criminal, aggravated discharge of a firearm, aggravated assault, and aggravated battery of a peace officer for allegedly spitting on a cop at the police station.

Judge Susana Ortiz ordered Vardaman held without bail on the new case and on his earlier case. 

Accused of shooting man while on bail for robbery

Larenz Simmons | CCSO

Larenz Simmons was charged with armed robbery in February of 2019. He stayed in jail until February of 2020 when Judge Charles Burns decided to lower his bond and let him go home on electronic monitoring.

Last month, while still on electronic monitoring, he and two other men opened fire on a group of people who were standing outside a West Side liquor store, according to prosecutors. No one died, but one of the targeted men was shot. Simmons was shot, too.

Prosecutors said surveillance video shows Simmons wearing distinctive clothes as he and two others got out of a car with guns drawn and begin shooting around 4:30 p.m. on November 18.

One victim was shot and fell to the ground, but the others ran away. 

Simmons also suffered a gunshot wound to his back. Prosecutors said he was probably shot by one of his alleged accomplices. The other gunmen allegedly dragged Simmons into their car and dropped him off near Mount Sinai Hospital.

Investigators tracked the shooters’ car for several blocks using a series of CPD surveillance cameras, according to prosecutors. Video from the hospital shows Simmons walking in for treatment in the same clothes he wore while shooting, they said.

Prosecutors charged him with aggravated battery by discharging a firearm and aggravated discharge of a firearm toward an occupied building.

Judge Arthur Willis ordered Simmons held without bail for violating the terms of his robbery bond. Willis set bail in the shooting at $500,000 and, ironically again, ordered him to go onto electronic monitoring if he becomes eligible to post bond.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com