Nazi salute, threats, pepper-spray, and an attempt to set Pride flag ablaze doesn’t qualify as hate crime, CPD says

A Rogers Park man who allegedly tried to burn a store’s Pride flag while firing off “homophobic slurs and [a] Nazi salute” then threatened to kill the store’s employees, didn’t commit a hate crime, Chicago police concluded. And it’s not the first time the accused man has been charged with threatening and battering people in stores and on the streets.

Police arrested Thomas Chavira, 29, around 11:18 a.m. on June 26 at Leather64TEN, 6410 North Clark, after store employees reported that he tried to light their rainbow flag ablaze on what’s traditionally Chicago’s Pride Weekend.

A store employee told police they saw Chavira trying to set their outdoor Pride flag on fire with a bottle of liquid and a Bic lighter around 11 a.m., according to a CPD report. When the clerk intervened, Chavira executed a Nazi salute and called the man homophobic slurs, the report said. Another store employee came out to splash water on the flag.

Thomas Chavira and the Leather64TEN storefront | CPD; Google

That’s when Chavira allegedly blasted pepper spray toward the employees, ages 57 and 32, but the irritant missed them, CPD’s report said.

When Chavira learned that police had been called, he tried to get away on his scooter, but a store employee took control of the bike and wheeled it into the back of the store to prevent his escape, according to police. Chavira allegedly followed him and tried to pepper spray the employee again.

Once again, the spray missed its mark. Chavira made a gun gesture with his hand and said something like, “I’m going to kill you, f*ggot,” according to the arrest report.

Police officers said Chavira was wearing a body camera that was in record mode when they arrested him. Cops also seized an empty bottle of rubbing alcohol, a Bic lighter, a can of pepper spray, a blue “America First” baseball hat, a brown wallet with a swastika design, and a dark gray bag with a “Nazi skull logo” design,” according to CPD inventory records.

Patrol officers notified CPD detectives about the incident, but an investigator concluded, “the elements of a hate crime are not present,” according to police records. A spokesperson for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said police did not consult with them about the case.

Chavira is charged with two counts of misdemeanor assault.

Just a month before the incident, Chavira pleaded guilty to simple battery for pepper-spraying a Domino’s Pizza worker just two blocks from where the Pride flag incident was reported.

On February 17, an employee of the pizza shop at 6607 North Clark asked Chavira to put on a COVID mask. Instead, Chavira went behind the counter, pulled the 23-year-old worker’s mask down, and pepper-sprayed him, according to a police report.

Judge Donald Panarese sentenced Chavira to six months conditional discharge on May 20.

Chavira was also arrested in Boystown on November 8, 2019, according to court records. In that case, he was accused of yelling racial slurs and allowing his dog to menace people on the 3300 block of North Halsted. The charges were dropped when the victims failed to show up in court, records show.

Speaking of dogs, Chavira was convicted of animal cruelty and aggravated assault of a police officer in September 2015. In that case, police responded to a call of two men and a dog blocking the entrance to a courtyard building while one of the men brandished a gun, CPD records show. The men yelled expletives at arriving police officers and fled into an apartment with the dog, police said.

Cops knocked on the apartment door, but the men refused to come out, and the officers decided to leave.

As they did, they heard the sound of a handgun’s slide being racked inside the apartment and a man’s voice saying, “I’m gonna get them when they come out,” according to a CPD report.

The officers, fearing they would be shot if they stepped into the courtyard, returned to the apartment and convinced Chavira to open the door after 20 minutes, they said. When the cops asked him to place his pit bull back inside the apartment, Chavira allegedly kicked it twice in the stomach and said, “get in there, stupid.”

Police believe the other man fled out the apartment’s back door with the gun they allegedly heard being racked.

“If I see you outside of your uniform, I will f*cking kill you,” Chavira allegedly told the arresting officers. “You better hope you’re not in the Yellow Pages or internet.”

Chavira took his case to a bench trial, and Judge Clarence Burch sentenced him to a one-year conditional discharge, court records show.

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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