CHICAGO — After officials said a man wearing a yellow “peacekeeper” vest was among a group of offenders who severely beat and robbed a driver in Little Village on Friday, a proponent of the anti-violence programs argued that the accused man had simply “mishandled the stress” of working as a peacekeeper.
On Sunday afternoon, Judge Maryam Ahmad held 31-year-old Oscar Montes without bail on charges of robbery, aggravated battery, and unlawful vehicular invasion.
Hours later, Peter Cunningham, who served as Assistant Secretary of Education under Arne Duncan during the Obama administration, offered his insights on Twitter.
“Over 500 peacekeepers on duty this weekend putting their lives on the line to stop shootings, but you highlight one guy who mishandled the stress. You don’t hold police to the same standard. You approve $90M per year in police abuse settlements. Time to think & act differently,” Cunningham posted.
He was responding to a tweet from Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) juxtaposing the attack allegations with the aspirational hopes of peacekeeping program’s supporters.
Around 11 p.m. Friday, Montes and six or seven accomplices pulled a 37-year-old man from a car near 23rd and Washtenaw in Little Village, prosecutors said.
Montes, who was charged with the attempted murder of a rival gang member in 2012, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and is currently on parole after serving a little more than ten years of a 12-year sentence.
On Friday night, he wore a yellow vest emblazoned with the word “peacekeeper” as he participated in the attack, leaving the victim with rib and facial fractures, according to a Chicago police report. The victim suffered partial vision loss in one eye, and doctors aren’t sure how much of it he will recover, prosecutors said.
A Chicago police surveillance camera captured the entire attack, and an officer who monitored the video told field units that one of the attackers was wearing a yellow vest.
Patrol officers quickly located Montes walking away from the scene while removing “a neon ‘peacekeepers’ vest,” according to the CPD arrest report. No other arrests were made.
Twitter users were quick to offer their thoughts about Cunningham’s conclusion that Montes had “mishandled the stress” of being a peacekeeper.
“If one police officer messed up, would you just shrug it off with that same nonchalant attitude?” asked Eugene Roy, the Chicago Police Department’s former chief of detectives. “I think not. As for the $90m in payouts, a significant portion is just paid out without being litigated in court. The Corp Counsel just paid out $800k to a woman facing a Federal trial for fraud.”
“‘Mishandling stress’ is throwing a book across the room or yelling at your 6yr old. This is straight up sociopathic behavior by someone who never should have been in the ‘peacekeeper’ position,” opined another.
Cunningham offered replies to some of the comments Monday. And, he conceded, he doesn’t know what happened in the situation Montes is accused of participating in.
“I don’t know the facts except what the media reported. From what I read, it sounds like some kind of personal conflict that escalated. It doesn’t sound like a guy who woke intending to assault and rob someone. I may be wrong. We’ll see,” Cunningham wrote.
“There is never a single solution but right now cops are getting vacations cancelled and shifts extended. the mental health consequences are clear. Everything we can do to help them, we should do,” he offered in another reply.
“Been having a robust debate with a bunch of folks about violence prevention programs in Chicago,” Cunningham posted Monday afternoon. “I have enjoyed the back and forth–except some of the nasty stuff–but I’m signing off for now. I’ll be back another day. Thanks for the dialogue.”