65 years: Judge sentences man for role in slaying of off-duty cop in River North

A Cook County judge on Tuesday sentenced a man to 65 years in prison for playing a role in the shooting death of off-duty Chicago Police Officer John Rivera in River North two years ago.

Jovan Battle, 34, apologized to Rivera’s family before being sentenced by Judge Michael Clancy. Prosecutors never accused Battle of firing a gun in the case, only of directing the shooter to the car where Rivera was seated.

Officer John Rivera (left) and his former partner, Officer Nate Smith, enjoy a lighter moment in this photo released by the Shakespeare Police District after Rivera’s death. | CPD

Rivera, his girlfriend, an off-duty probationary police officer, and a fourth person had just entered Rivera’s parked car on the 700 block of North Clark when they were shot around 3:29 a.m. on March 23, 2019.

The group was heading home after spending time together at Stout Barrel House, 642 North Clark, according to CPD records.

About an hour before the shooting, two of Battle’s co-defendants, Menelik Jackson and Jaquan Washington, got into a fight with a group of Hispanic men at the former Rock and Roll McDonald’s, 600 North Clark.

According to prosecutors, the parties went their separate ways, but Jackson and Washington went looking for the group and encountered Battle along the way.

Jovan Battle | CPD

When Jackson asked Battle if he’d seen a group of Hispanic guys in the area, Battle directed them to Rivera’s car, police said. Jackson allegedly walked up to Rivera’s driver’s side window and opened fire, killing the 23-year-old off-duty cop and critically injuring a man in Rivera’s back seat.

There were “no problems, no words were exchanged, no robbery demand, no carjacking demand” before the shooting, now-retired CPD Deputy Supt. Anthony Riccio said at the time.

Battle later told police he helped Jackson because they are both members of the Gangster Disciples street gang.

Jackson and Washington are still awaiting trial.

Two weeks

Jackson allegedly murdered Rivera just two weeks after a judge decided to release him from curfew and electronic monitoring restrictions that he received in an armed home invasion case.

In July 2017, Jackson armed himself with a handgun he was prohibited from owning and broke into his ex-girlfriend’s house in violation of a protective order, prosecutors said. He brandished the gun and threatened to kill both the woman and the couple’s four-month-old child, prosecutors alleged.

Afterward, the woman called police and told them where they could find Jackson: He had an appointment that morning for pre-hiring screening at the Chicago Police Academy. Officers arrested him there in possession of a loaded handgun.

Menelik Jackson (left) and Jaquan Washington | CPD

Jackson was charged with one of the state’s most serious crimes, Class X felony home invasion while armed with a firearm. Other felony charges filed included residential burglary, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon in a vehicle, and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon in violation of a protective order.

One year later, Jackson struck a plea deal. Prosecutors agreed to drop all of the most serious charges if he would plead guilty to one count of “attempted burglary.” In exchange, he’d get probation.

He jumped at the deal.

Judge Ursula Walowski ordered him to stay in the house from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and to wear a GPS home monitor for six months.

Toward the end of the six months, prosecutors filed a violation of probation after Jackson allegedly allowed the batteries to drain out of his home monitoring system.

When Judge Joseph Claps heard about the alleged violation on March 8, 2019, he didn’t penalize Jackson at all. In fact, he ended Jackson’s curfew and ordered him taken off electronic monitoring immediately.

Two weeks later, Jackson — armed with another gun he was not allowed to have and wandering the streets at 3:30 a.m. — allegedly killed Rivera.

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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