Chicago — Prosecutors say a man on electronic monitoring for allegedly firing an assault rifle at a Chicago Housing Authority complex this summer had a loaded and defaced firearm in his car Thursday in the South Loop. The case raises questions about both the effectiveness of cash bail and the effectiveness of electronic monitoring as used in Cook County.
The accused man, Lamont Sims, 20, told Judge Charles Beach that he was allowed to drive for DoorDash two days a week while being monitored electronically. That’s what he was doing when he was arrested, he claimed.
Beach countered that the case “almost poses the very question of whether monetary bail works.”
“You posted $20,000 to be released from custody, sir,” Beach noted. “$20,000 to be placed on [electronic monitoring]. Yet here we stand today.”
During a bail hearing on Friday, prosecutor Rhianna Biernat said a Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office investigator recently told a Chicago Police Department tactical team about people in a gray Kia Optima who had been causing “a lot of problems” recently for security guards at a specific parking lot.
Biernat said that firearms and “a lot of currency” had been seen in the car.
Around 3 p.m. Thursday, Chicago police saw the Kia Optima in the parking lot in the 2000 block of South Michigan and decided to investigate. As they asked the car’s three occupants to step out, Sims shoved something under the driver’s seat, Biernat alleged.
Police looked under the seat and allegedly recovered a loaded 9-millimeter handgun with a defaced serial number.
Officers arrested Sims and prosecutors charged him with possession of a firearm with a defaced serial number and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon.
Back on July 23, Chicago police officers heard shots fired and saw a group of people running toward a stolen SUV in the middle of Wentworth Avenue outside the Wentworth Gardens housing complex. That’s just south of Guaranteed Rate Field.
The cops then saw people shooting toward the housing complex from the SUV. They pursued the vehicle until the occupants bailed out and ran. Sims was arrested nearby, and Biernat said surveillance video showed him firing an assault rifle toward Wentworth Gardens from the SUV’s passenger seat. Investigators found the rifle in the vehicle, another handgun in the car’s back seat, and five more guns “in the area,” Biernat said.
The following day, Judge Barbara Dawkins ordered Sims to pay a $20,000 deposit toward bail to be released on electronic monitoring. On August 5, he did so. Then, on October 20, Judge Domenica Stephenson permitted him to leave his house for work while under electronic surveillance, according to Biernat.
Sims told Judge Beach on Friday that he has “been doing DoorDash” every Tuesday and Thursday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. He said that’s what he was doing on Thursday afternoon when the police claimed they found him in a car in a South Loop parking lot with two passengers and a gun under his seat.
His public defender, Suzin Farber, said Sims has no criminal background. She also pointed out that the police only saw him put “something” under his seat. Nobody saw him holding or brandishing a gun in the car, Farber said.
After hearing from the attorneys, Beach held Sims without bail at the state’s request.