On ritzy Oak Street, a suspicious car leads cops to a 4-time convicted gun felon — and 2 more guns, prosecutors say

Austin Collins | CPD

Like their counterparts on Michigan Avenue and Rush Street, high-end boutiques along ritzy Oak Street have been targeted time and time again by shoplifting crews this year.

So, when Chicago cops saw an unoccupied car parked in front of a hydrant on Oak Street with its flashers on Sunday afternoon, they looked a little closer. And that’s when things got really interesting.

It turns out the car matched the description of a vehicle used in recent retail thefts, according to prosecutors.

Officers kept an eye on the car, parked within a stone’s throw of luxury shops like Christian Louboutin, Dolce & Gabbana, and Chanel.

It wasn’t long before a man and woman walked up to the car. The man, identified by prosecutors as Austin Collins, 29, tossed a satchel in the back seat and climbed behind the wheel. The woman entered the passenger seat.

Police stopped them before they could leave — they were parked in front of a hydrant, after all. And a cop opened one of the rear doors “for officer safety” because the windows were heavily tinted, Assistant State’s Attorney Loukas Kalliantasis said.

The officers noticed that the satchel Collins tossed into the back seat was “extremely bulky … consistent with firearms,” according to Kalliantasis. And it was heavy, too.

Cops looked inside and saw two handguns: a loaded 45-caliber with an extended ammunition magazine and a loaded 9-millimeter, Kalliantasis said.

Collins, a four-time convicted felon, was on bond for a pending armed habitual criminal case that he picked up last year while on parole for being a felon in possession of a firearm.

His previous convictions include another unlawful use of a weapon by a felon in 2013, aggravated battery by discharging a firearm in 2011, aggravated robbery in 2011, and two juvenile adjudications for burglary, Kalliantasis said.

Collins’ private defense attorney said he lives in Olympia Fields and suggested that Collins was guilty of nothing more than carrying his female passenger’s purse.

Judge Susana Ortiz denied a state request to hold Collins without bail on the new charges. Instead, she set bail at $350,000 and ordered him to go onto electronic monitoring if he can post 10% of that amount.

But he won’t be eligible to bail out right away. Ortiz also ordered him held without bail until the judge overseeing his armed habitual criminal case can consider the new developments.

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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