CHICAGO — You can’t blame him for trying. Prosecutors say a man who ran from Chicago police tossed a firearm into the Chicago River as he sprinted across the State Street Bridge on Tuesday evening. Unfortunately for him, a CPD marine unit diver who responded to the scene found a loaded handgun equipped with an automatic-fire switch at the bottom of the river.
Deral Willis, 30, is now charged with Class X armed habitual criminal. Judge Susana Ortiz ordered him jailed to await trial.
It all started when Chicago cops stopped a car for a minor traffic violation near State and Wacker around 8:30 p.m. The officers asked the driver and Willis, the front seat passenger, to step out.
Willis allegedly bolted away and headed across the State Street Bridge, with cops sprinting behind him. As he reached the north side of the bridge, Willis pulled out a firearm and tossed it into the water in front of Marina City, according to a CPD arrest report.
He kept running, getting as far as Kinzie Street before the cops caught up with him.
The officers called in CPD’s marine unit and directed a diver to the spot where the gun hit the water, the report said. He soon surfaced with a tan pistol, which prosecutors said had an after-market switch installed that allowed it to generate automatic gunfire, similar to a machine gun.
Willis was convicted of two robberies in 2011. And on June 13, 2012, he was arrested after committing two more, one in Wicker Park and the other in West Town. A total of three victims were robbed at gunpoint during the crimes, and Willis struck one of the victims, a female bicyclist, in the face with his firearm, according to an appellate court’s summary.
Judge Thomas Gainer handed him a 25-year sentence for the 2012 robberies in January 2016, according to court records. The appellate court upheld the conviction.
Many other people have been accused of tossing firearms in the river and Lake Michigan as cops closed in on them.
During Mexican Independence Day celebrations in the Loop early last Sunday, 27-year-old David Garcia allegedly tossed an “L-shaped object” toward the river when cops approached him. Police found a handgun and loaded ammunition magazine on the riverwalk below Garcia.
In May 2022, a man who ran from Millennium Park after being shot by a security guard hopped onto a tiki party boat docked along Wacker Drive and tossed a gun into the river, prosecutors alleged. Police arrested him on the boat, and CPD divers recovered a loaded handgun with a defaced serial number from the riverbed the next day. The case is still pending.
In October 2021, officers responding to reports of a person with a gun near Montrose Harbor found a man sitting near the water who looked like the suspect. When they asked the man to take his hands out of his hoodie pockets, he threw a gun toward the lake. The gun hit the ground and bounced into Lake Michigan. A CPD diver found the pistol and its ammunition magazine about a foot apart at the bottom of the lake. Juan Valle, 40, pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm last October. Judge Michael Hood sentenced him to four years.