Troubling new details arise over informant’s murder
BY KIM JANSSEN AND FRANK MAIN | STAFF REPORTERS June 8, 2013 9:40AM
Paris Poe | FBI photo
Updated: July 10, 2013 6:22AM
The feds called him a “cooperating source.”
But the drug dealers, gun runners and murderers he was cooperating against have a harsher word for folks like Keith Daniels.
And on April 14, snitching likely cost the 27-year-old his life.
Gunned down outside his Dolton home, allegedly by a parolee in front of his terrified girlfriend and child, Daniels was killed for his role in the front line of Chicago’s war against gangs, authorities said.
Now — just days after U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) called for a federal crackdown on 18,000 members of the Gangster Disciples — troubling new details have been uncovered by the Sun-Times about the events leading to Daniels’ murder.
They appear to raise serious questions about the FBI’s ability to protect the informants it will rely upon in any fresh assault on Chicago’s decades-old gang culture, and about the state’s ability to keep tabs on the thousands of violent parolees walking the city’s streets.
That’s because the gang leader suspected of killing Daniels — and of at least three other recent unsolved murders — was supposed to be more than 25 miles away, under house arrest, wearing an Illinois Department of Corrections electronic monitoring ankle bracelet when he allegedly shot Daniels multiple times.
Instead, the suspect in the slaying — Paris Poe — had gone on the run four days earlier, likely cutting off his ankle bracelet within hours of learning that Daniels was working with the FBI in a major undercover investigation.
There was compelling evidence that Daniels’ cover had been blown, according to court records and sources.
And the feds knew that Poe, who had both a history of allegedly threatening witnesses and reason to hurt Daniels, was on the lam.
But they could neither catch Poe in time, nor, authorities believe, keep him from Daniels,
Poe was only finally caught on May 2 near Madison, Wis., following a wild manhunt that saw several schools locked down.
He has yet to be charged with the murder of Daniels or anyone else.
It’s a case the FBI is reluctant to discuss. Asked detailed questions this week about the murder and its fallout, including whether the FBI can protect its informants in the light of Daniels’ death, or whether Daniels critically compromised himself, FBI spokeswoman Joan Hyde declined to comment, citing an ongoing investigation.
But a review of court, prison and police records and information from multiple law enforcement sources paints a disturbing picture.
A small-time crook charged 16 times for everything from assault and battery to drug offenses, Daniels was never convicted of a felony.
He started work as a Chicago Police and FBI informant after a May 2011 arrest, and proved himself a reliable informant in numerous cases, including murders, a special agent wrote in a recent court filing. The FBI paid him a total of $28,000 and helped him relocate 15 miles south to Dolton.
Soon, he was wearing a wire against the “Hobos,” a so-called “supergang” composed of members of the Gangster Disciples and other gangs.
The Hobos were in the heroin, gun and murder business. Over the last decade, the crew also specialized in robbing NBA players, police sources said. Investigators, for example, believe the crew was responsible for robbing then-NBA star Antoine Walker of a $55,000 watch outside a near West Side restaurant in 2000.
It was a lucrative racket that allowed one high-ranking Hobo to bet more than $1 million in Las Vegas and Dominican Republic casinos, according to court papers.
With a tattoo that reads “Hobo Chief” on his right arm reflecting his position as one of the gang’s leaders, Poe was especially dangerous.
His convictions for aggravated assault, robbery, drug dealing and owning an illegal machine gun, along with a 2006 witness intimidation charge that he beat, hinted at just how fraught a situation Daniels was in.
On three occasions in 2011, Daniels secretly recorded Poe’s reputed associates and fellow Hobos, Lance “Double” Dillard and Gregory “Bowlegs” Chester, allegedly making large heroin deals.
But things started going badly wrong on April 9 this year, when Dillard and Chester were arrested — and agents found Poe’s paycheck in Dillard’s car.
Though the federal complaints unsealed that day didn’t identify Daniels by name, they detailed multiple private conversations he had with both men, including during a Sept. 1, 2011, heroin deal in a parked minivan in which a wary Chester asked Daniels, “This ain’t the police?”
Both Dillard and Chester would have known from the court documents that Daniels was the informant who secretly recorded them, though Dillard’s attorney recently told a judge that Dillard had nothing to do with unmasking Daniels.
Even so, within a day of Dillard and Chester’s arrests, on April 10, Poe had violated his parole. IDOC records show his electronic monitoring ankle bracelet went “out of range” of his Humboldt Park home at 10:35 p.m. and that the feds were alerted immediately, according to IDOC spokesman Tom Shaer.
When Poe could not be found April 11, an arrest warrant was issued.
Two days later, on April 13, William Ford — a Hobo leader incarcerated at Stateville Prison — was secretly recorded on the phone discussing the fact that Daniels was wearing a wire and that Poe was on the run, according to a law enforcement source.
And on April 14, Daniels was killed.
He isn’t the only informant to be murdered in the Chicago area in recent years.
FBI informant Timothy Forrest was shot dead in 2006 while wearing a wire. And murder witness Kimberly Harris was gunned down last year after identifying a killer to a Cook County grand jury.
A recent cellphone ban in Cook County’s criminal courts — designed to prevent gangs from witness intimidation — also illustrated the danger.
David M. Kennedy, director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of New York, said that informants typically “know what the risks are” when they wear a wire, and that informant murders have little impact on the so-called “no-snitching” culture, which he said is driven by “extreme alienation” from and longstanding “distrust of the police” in poor communities.
But Art Lurigio, a professor of psychology and criminology at Loyola University, said that though informant murders are relatively rare, they weigh heavily on potential witnesses in gang-controlled neighborhoods whenever Mayor Rahm Emanuel or Police Supt. Garry McCarthy calls for greater community assistance in criminal investigations.
“It’s meant to have a chilling and deterring effect on the general population — that’s one of the main reasons its done,” Lurigio said.
“Any undercover informant knows with utter certainty that they’ll be executed if they’re discovered.
“It’s the responsibility of law enforcement to do everything it can to provide as much security as it can.”