Cops seize gun, drugs after acting on tips about suspicious truck near West Loop homeless camp

CHICAGO — Prosecutors have charged a man with Class X armed violence after Chicago cops, acting on tips from local residents, allegedly found a loaded handgun with a 30-round magazine and narcotics in his truck.

Neighbors had filed complaints about a white truck with an Indiana plate that regularly circled the area near a troubled homeless encampment at Fulton and Clinton streets, according to the arrest report CPD filed for 39-year-old Christopher Davenport.

The report said residents told police the truck “spends hours” parked in the area, and a man gets in and out of the truck, walking to a “big red tent” that has been the site of multiple narcotics-related arrests.

Officers spotted the 2012 Mitsubishi in the 500 block of West Fulton around 5:45 p.m. Friday and struck up a conversation with Davenport, who was inside the vehicle. They said he told them he was homeless and lived in the truck.

Christopher Davenport (Cook County sheriff’s office)

After Davenport gave police permission to search the truck, the report said, cops recovered a loaded 9-millimeter handgun equipped with an extended magazine and a laser sight from next to where Davenport had been seated.

They also found a small baggie containing suspected crack cocaine and a plastic bottle containing suspected heroin, the police report stated.

Judge Susana Ortiz detained Davenport at the state’s request. The armed violence charge, one of the state’s most serious felonies, can be filed when people are accused of possessing a firearm and narcotics at the same time. No actual violence needs to be involved.

Court records show Davenport was convicted of attempted murder in 2011. He received a 15-year sentence.

Ongoing problems

Earlier this month, a man was shot in the 500 block of West Kinzie, an incident that officials linked to an open-air drug market that operates in the nearby tent city.

Aldermen Brendan Reilly (42nd) and Bill Conway (34th) have been publicly calling for Mayor Brandon Johnson’s administration to help clean up the problematic West Loop camps. Other shootings, linked by the aldermen to narcotics activity in and near the homeless camps, have been reported in the area since late last year:

A man was murdered under the Clinton L station on December 7, steps from a nearby camp. Another man was shot at the same location on November 8. He survived. Two weeks before that, another man was shot in the 600 block of West Fulton.

Investigators determined that the murder victim, 59-year-old Darnell Burt, was killed while participating in a shootout with someone in the 100 block of North Clinton.

Burt, standing outside the French Market parking garage, was caught on video exchanging gunfire with someone on the opposite side of Clinton Street, a Chicago police report secured by CWBChicago said. After being shot in the chest, Burt ran north on Clinton and collapsed under the train station.

Before first responders arrived, a man walked up to Burt’s body and stole Burt’s gun with one hand while taking Burt’s bag with the other hand, the report said, citing surveillance video.

Cops detained a man who matched the description of the person who took Burt’s gun and bag, but he was released without being charged. No other arrests have been announced in connection with the case.

“Based on the clear trajectory of violent crime in the area, this tragic fatal shooting was inevitable and likely avoidable,” Conway claimed after the December 7 murder. “For months, I’ve been relentlessly trying to get the Mayor’s Office to see that this site was no longer a peaceful encampment but rather a magnet for violent crime and drugs.”

Late last year, Conway accused Johnson’s administration of withholding city services that could clean up a homeless camp under the Clinton train station. The freshman alderman claimed a top Johnson aide said the city could do more but would only act if Conway agreed to vote in favor of two of the mayor’s pet projects. He referred the matter to the city’s inspector general.

Days before the murder, Chicago police arrested a 19-year-old man after he allegedly sold drugs to an undercover cop just a few yards from the murder scene. Prosecutors said police went into a tent Tailon Appleton sold drugs from and found nearly three-quarters of a pound of heroin worth $52,875 and $8,610 worth of crack. They also recovered a loaded handgun with an extended ammunition magazine inside a backpack inside the tent, officials said. Police allegedly seized $1,188 in cash from Appleton.

Prosecutors asked Judge Maryam Ahmad to keep Appleton in jail as a public safety threat, but she refused, deciding instead to put him on electronic monitoring.

Last month, Chicago police conducted an undercover narcotics sting at the homeless camp. They arrested two men, recovered a handgun, and seized $5,100 worth of drugs and nearly $2,300 in cash from a tent. Judge David Kelly released both men to await trial.

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