Gun charge filed against man convicted last year of inciting 2020 riots in Chicago

CHICAGO — James Massey, who received a 15-month federal prison sentence last May for using social media to encourage people to riot in downtown Chicago during the summer of 2020, is facing new charges after Chicago police allegedly found him carrying a gun in his car.

Massey pleaded guilty last year to inciting a riot for a series of Facebook videos and messages calling for people to destroy property and loot on August 9, 2020.

“Y’all ready?” Massey asked in one video that he allegedly posted using the name Steve Nash. “I sent everybody the location to link up at bro. I trying to get something. I need to hit a couple stores.” In another video, Massey said he personally “ain’t missing out. I am ready to steal.”

Thousands of people looted and rioted on the Magnificent Mile, through the Loop, and in neighborhood retail corridors in the hours following Massey’s online pleas. The crime wave followed false rumors that Chicago police had shot a child or an unarmed man earlier on August 9.

U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly imposed the sentence and ordered Massey to pay $185,148 in restitution in May 2022, federal officials said.

On Monday morning, Chicago police pulled Massey over for not wearing a seat belt in the 1100 block of West 59th Street, Cook County prosecutors said this week. Cops said they saw Massey reach toward the floorboard, then stick his hands out the window as they approached.

James Massey after his arrest on Monday (left) and during a riot-inciting Facebook stream from August 2020. | Chicago Police Department; U.S. District Court records

The officers saw a cup of suspected alcohol in the center console, so they asked Massey to step out of the vehicle, prosecutors said. He allegedly moved his right hand toward the floor, then exited.

Police said they found a loaded 9-millimeter handgun under the driver’s seat.

During Massey’s bail hearing Monday afternoon, Judge David Kelly asked the Cook County assistant state’s attorney handling Massey’s case for details about what led to his federal conviction on riot-related charges. The prosecutor said he had no information about what Massey did to receive the sentence. Massey is still on federal supervised release in the case.

Massey is charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, but the prosecutor said they may soon upgrade the violation to aggravated unlawful use of a weapon by a felon. 

On Monday, a defense attorney who represented Massey said he had worked nine months as an overnight stocker for a retail chain to support his two-year-old child. The lawyer said he volunteers to pick up trash in local parks and attends church every week.

Kelly ordered him to pay a $1,000 bail deposit to be released from jail. According to the Cook County sheriff’s office online portal, Massey was not in jail as of Wednesday morning.

Indiana trip

While Massey’s federal case was pending, he tried to buy a firearm at a gun store in Hammond, Indiana, prosecutors said in a sentencing memorandum last year.

In addition to not having permission to leave the state, Massey also provided false information on a federal form as he tried to buy the Taurus Armas pistol, including claims that he lived in Indiana and was not under federal indictment, the memorandum said.

The gun store rejected Massey’s purchase because a background check found that he was under federal indictment, according to the memorandum. Federal prosecutors moved to revoke his federal pretrial release after the Indiana incident, but they did not charge him with any wrongdoing.

False rumors

In fact, Chicago police did shoot someone on the afternoon of August 9, 2020. But it was not a child. It was 20-year-old Latrell Allen.

Just last week, a jury needed less than three hours to convict on all charges, including four counts of attempted murder of police officers. Judge Thomas Byrne set the next court date for July 11.

COPA, the city’s police oversight agency, found that two officers who shot Allen that afternoon acted within the department’s guidelines after he opened fire on them while running away.

Officials said the officers first approached Allen because he matched the description of a suspect with a gun in a park with children present.

Chicago police arrested over 100 people as looting and riots spread through the city’s downtown retail corridors following Allen’s shooting. Two people, including a store security guard, were shot during the riot.

The guard got into an altercation with a group of rioters in the 400 block of North Clark around 4 a.m., on August 10, police said. Several people in the group pulled out guns and opened fire on the guard, who was shot in the abdomen, according to police.

The other shooting victim that night was a 20-year-old man. He got shot while trying to drive away from a man who tried to carjack him in the 200 block of South Wabash.

Another gunman fired shots at police in the Loop that night. Those officers returned fire, but the gunman escaped, Brown said the following day.

Thirteen police officers were injured, including one who was struck by a bottle, Brown said. Another cop’s nose was broken.

In addition to the four counts of attempted murder, Allen was found guilty of two counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm toward a peace officer and aggravated discharge of a firearm into an occupied vehicle, according to court records.

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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