CHICAGO — Two Chicago men were shot while working as “peacekeepers” in Little Village over the weekend, including one who was shot in the leg, right next to the electronic monitoring bracelet he was wearing for a pending felony gun case. The men were shot about a block from where another peacekeeper allegedly helped beat and rob a motorist in May.
Chicago police had their hands full in Little Village on Friday night, especially considering that a group of peacekeepers was on the street, preventing violence.
First, two men were shot in the 2100 block of South Fairfield just after 10 p.m. While officers were working the crime scene, they reported hearing more than 20 rounds fired nearby. And residents reported gunfire in the 2600 block of West 21st Street around the same time. A Jeep Wrangler sped from the intersection and crashed. No arrests were made.
About 30 minutes later, at about 11:13 p.m., the peacekeepers were shot in the 2600 block of West 23rd Place.
Once again, Chicago police officers working the earlier shootings heard the gunfire. ShotSpotter technology detected 16 rounds fired in the 2600 block of West 23rd Place and another 16 shots fired in the 2400 block of South Rockwell, a CPD officer radioed.
A witness reported seeing a man wearing a yellow shirt or jacket—standard streetwear for the city’s peacekeeping force—with a crowd in the middle of the street.
Two men, ages 21 and 33, left the scene before police arrived. They arrived at Stroger Hospital a short time later for treatment of gunshot wounds. Both men told investigators that they had been in Little Village to keep the peace, according to a source.
CPD, which did not identify the victims as peacekeepers, said the older man suffered a graze wound to his abdomen.
The younger man received two gunshot wounds to his leg. Those injuries were problematic because the peacekeeper’s ankle monitor got in the way as doctors tried to treat him.
Court records show he was arrested in January for illegally possessing a firearm in Little Village. While on bail for that case, he was arrested and charged with felony gun possession again in May.
During his May bail hearing, a prosecutor said Chicago cops went to a Little Village intersection after CPD surveillance camera operators saw “multiple gang members” gathered in the street.
They all ran away when the police arrived. And the 21-year-old allegedly tossed an “L-shaped object” as he jumped a fence. After the police caught him, they backtracked and allegedly found a loaded handgun with an extended magazine near the fence.
During the bail hearing, his defense attorney said he was employed as a “community youth outreach” worker for an organization that deploys peacekeepers in the neighborhood. Judge Susana Ortiz set bail in the new case at $30,000 and she also held him without bail for violating bond in the January gun case, court records show.
About a week later, the man pleaded guilty in the January case, receiving a sentence of 105 days time served from Judge Thomas Byrne on a reduced charge of misdemeanor gun possession. Shortly after pleading guilty, he was released on electronic monitoring to await trial in the May case, which is still pending before Judge William Gamboney.
Also in May, police arrested a 31-year-old man who supposedly worked as a peacekeeper after he allegedly helped beat and rob a motorist at 23rd Place and Washtenaw. That’s right down the block from where the peacekeepers were shot over the weekend.
A 37-year-old man was pulled from his vehicle by “multiple offenders,” including one wearing a neon vest, officials said as they charged Oscar Montes with robbery, aggravated battery, and unlawful vehicular invasion.
Prosecutor Charles Golaszewski said six or seven men joined Montes in pulling the victim from the driver’s seat. The group punched and kicked him on the ground. Montes took the victim’s phone and beat the man with it, Golaszewski alleged. Another man took the victim’s wallet before everyone scattered as Chicago cops arrived.
A CPD surveillance camera recorded the entire attack, Golaszewski said, and officers who reviewed the footage identified a man wearing a yellow vest as one of the attackers.
Police officers searched the area and quickly located Montes walking away from them while removing “a neon ‘peacekeepers’ vest,” according to the CPD arrest report. No other arrests were made.
The victim was taken to Mt. Sinai Hospital in serious condition with significant injuries to one eye, cuts, bruises, and abrasions. Golaszewski said he suffered a facial fracture, rib fracture, and a left eye injury that has caused partial vision loss. It was unclear if the victim’s vision would fully return, Golaszewski said in May.
Montes was on parole at the time of the incident for a 2012 case in which he pleaded guilty to aggravated discharge of a firearm into an occupied vehicle. Golaszewski said those allegations stemmed from an incident involving a rival gang member of Montes in Little Village. Court records show Montes was initially charged with attempted murder but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge.
State officials revoked Montes’ parole after charges were filed. He is scheduled to be released again on March 19, 2024.
After news of the allegations against Montes went public, Peter Cunningham, who served as Assistant Secretary of Education under Arne Duncan during the Obama administration, said Montes “mishandled the stress” of being a peacekeeper.
“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 the peacekeeping program’s supporters.