CHICAGO — The city of Chicago released surveillance camera footage Tuesday of an anti-violence “peacekeeper” participating in the violent beating and robbery of a driver in Little Village on May 26.
CWBChicago requested the video through a freedom of information request on May 30, but the Office of Emergency Management and Communications refused to supply the footage, claiming that its release would, among other things, violate the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
We took the matter to the Illinois Attorney General’s office, and the city decided to comply with the law yesterday.
Leading into the Memorial Day weekend, state and city leaders hailed the deployment of dozens of yellow-vested “peacekeepers” as an important tactic to tamp down violence.
The holiday weekend was barely underway before one of those “peacekeepers” unleashed some not-so-peaceful behavior as the city’s surveillance camera rolled nearby.
The trouble began around 10:55 p.m. as Chicago police officers saw a large group fighting near 23rd Place and Washtenaw. Additional CPD units were sent to stabilize the situation.
But less than five minutes after officers cleared up from that incident, CPD surveillance officers monitoring the camera feed reported that a group of people had pulled a man from a passing vehicle. The 37-year-old driver was yanked from his van by “multiple offenders,” including one wearing “a neon ‘peacekeepers’ vest,” a CPD report said.
In the footage released Tuesday, the victim’s van passes a group of people standing down the block. When he reaches a stop sign, a man approaches the driver’s window, interacts with the driver, and then begins to pull the driver from his seat.
The yellow-vested “peacekeeper” and several other men quickly join in. They finish pulling the driver from the van, which rolls down the street because it is still in gear. A severe beating ensues.
At one point, the “peacekeeper” uses a phone to beat the victim as others kick and punch the man. The lighted phone screen is seen rising and falling with each swing.
The attackers bolt as Chicago cops arrive, leaving the victim lying in the street, apparently unconscious.
He was taken to Mt. Sinai Hospital in serious condition with significant injuries to one eye, cuts, bruises, and abrasions. Officials said he suffered a facial fracture, a rib fracture, and a left eye injury that has caused partial vision loss. It is unclear if the victim’s vision will fully return, according to prosecutors.
Here is a portion of the video provided by the city on Tuesday. Before viewing, please keep in mind that it depicts a violent attack.
Guided by police camera operators, cops searched the area and quickly located 31-year-old Oscar Montes walking away while removing “a neon ‘peacekeepers’ vest,” according to the Chicago police arrest report. No other arrests were made.
Prosecutors said Montes took the victim’s phone and used it to beat the victim. Another man took the victim’s wallet.
Montes was on parole for a 2012 case in which he pleaded guilty to aggravated discharge of a firearm into an occupied vehicle. Prosecutors said those allegations stemmed from an incident involving a rival gang member of Montes in Little Village. Court records show Montes was originally charged with attempted murder but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge.
State officials revoked his parole as a result of the new allegations. He is now in the Shawnee Correctional Center with a new parole date of March 19, 2024. He is charged with nine felonies in connection with the May 26 attack, including multiple counts of armed robbery and aggravated battery. The case is still pending.
Peter Cunningham, an education official during the Obama administration and a proponent of “peacekeeping” programs, said Montes had simply “mishandled the stress” of working as 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) that juxtaposed the attack allegations with the aspirational hopes of the peacekeeping program’s supporters.