Informant feared for life after helping Chicago police
BY KIM JANSSEN AND FRANK MAIN Staff Reporters June 14, 2013 7:42PM
Updated: July 17, 2013 6:49AM
In his final months, Keith Daniels seemed to be carrying an invisible weight.
The 27-year-old drug dealer had always had a taste for Hennessy cognac, but now he regularly reeked of booze.
He’d once been a loving, if all-too-often absent parent, friends say. Now he openly disowned his young son, telling folks on the street somebody else was the father.
When he visited the high-rise building on the South Side where part of his extended family lived, he lingered in the lobby and refused to come upstairs.
“We thought he was being an ass****,” a friend said. “Now we know — he was protecting them from what he was doing.”
That’s because, unknown to his family, Daniels had taken on a job even more dangerous than his previous gig hustling heroin: working as a paid snitch for the FBI and the Chicago Police Department.
It earned him $28,000 but cost him his life, authorities believe.
Though nobody has been charged with Daniels’ murder, the Sun-Times last Sunday revealed how he was allegedly gunned down April 14 by an escaped parolee just days after a federal complaint was unsealed, identifying Daniels as an FBI informant in a major investigation of the “Hobos,” a so-called “supergang” that specialized in robbing NBA players.
Now, interviews with some of the people closest to Daniels show the toll his undercover work took.
And freshly uncovered court documents lay out how he previously risked his life to help police and Cook County prosecutors solve one of Chicago’s highest-profile murders of 2011 — the botched drive-by shooting of an innocent bystander, 13-year-old Darius “Bay Bay” Brown.
Despite Daniels’ death, Cook County prosecutors say they plan to go to trial against the three men charged in Brown’s murder.
But Daniels’ supporters say the case raises further questions about state and federal law enforcement’s ability to protect the informants it relies upon in its battle against gang violence.
Citing fears for their safety — and the extreme stigma in their South Side community of any association with snitches — they spoke on the condition they not be named.
Their account of Daniels’ last two years jibes with official records, while illustrating the difficulties police and the feds face protecting informants.
Daniels started cooperating following a May 2011 gun arrest, according to court records.
Just a month earlier, his younger brother, Khristopher Daniels, had been murdered in a gangland hit. The murder haunted the elder Daniels, who told pals, “I wish it had been me,” sources said.
The brothers grew up at 37th and Indiana, two blocks from Chicago Police headquarters, in the stronghold of a Gangster Disciple faction called the 37th Avenue Boys.
According to court records, the gang blamed a rival Gangster Disciple faction called Welch World/So-Icey for the murders of Khristopher Daniels and Princess Streeter, a 24-year-old woman killed in February 2011.
Three members of the 37th Avenue boys — Princess Streeter’s brother, Jamal Streeter, 20; Princess Streeter’s boyfriend, Aramis Beachem, 23; and Vito Richmond, 19 — were allegedly gunning for revenge for those murders on Aug. 3, 2011, when police say they opened fire from passing cars at a crowd playing basketball at Metcalfe Park, near 42nd and State.
The intended target was Steven Barron, a rival who displayed his reputed membership of Welch World/So Icey with a Washington Nationals ball cap with a “W” insignia.
But the bullet meant for Barron hit and killed Brown, who was standing next to him.
Brown wasn’t a gang member — just a kid playing ball, police said.
Even in a community numbed to violence, the murder of the young basketball phenom provoked widespread revulsion. It also attracted significant media attention and offers of rewards for anyone willing to break the no-snitch code.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel even called Brown’s mother to inform her of the charges that Daniels helped bring.
Within days of the killing, Daniels had told police that he heard members of the 37th Avenue Boys talking about it.
He’d seen them passing around a .45-caliber pistol used in the shooting, he told the cops.
Detectives gave him $500 to attempt to buy the gun. A week after Brown’s murder, he purchased the pistol from 37th Avenue Boys’ member Clarence Whitelow, according to court records. Tests showed the gun fired the same .45-caliber bullets whose casings were found at the scene of Brown’s murder, police said.
Using a hidden recording device, Daniels also captured the suspects admitting roles in the killing, and helped police recover one of the two cars used in the shooting, prosecutors said.
Despite the media attention, Daniels’ friends say they had no clue that Daniels was cooperating until the summer of 2012, when a jealous girlfriend lashed out in a wild Facebook posting, sharing what appeared to be loose pillow talk about his role as a snitch.
A court filing by the Cook County state’s attorney’s office at around the same time — May 2012 — also identified Daniels as an informant in Brown’s murder.
Daniels was mortified, friends say. But “he had that swagger — he didn’t want the streets to think it was true
. . . people were saying he was a snitch, so he came back to the neighborhood to show that it wasn’t,” said a source who learned the full story only after Daniels was killed.
The brazen act apparently worked, for a while.
But Daniels seemed to sense he was at increased danger in the final weeks before his work with the FBI was revealed April 9 this year.
In addition to his increased drinking, friends say he made a “goodbye” visit to confused relatives, telling them, “People are trying to kill me.”
A day after Daniels’ cover was definitively blown in a federal court filing against two reputed members of the Hobos, “Hobo Chief” Paris Poe, 30, allegedly cut off an electronic monitoring bracelet and went on the run from house arrest.
And on April 14, Poe allegedly gunned down Daniels outside the home in South suburban Dolton that the FBI had helped Daniels move to, authorities said.
FBI spokeswoman Joan Hyde again this week declined to comment on the case, citing the ongoing investigation.
Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, said Daniels never asked the office to relocate him.
“We understand the concerns people have coming forward and we do the very best with the resources we have to make them safe,” she said.
But a friend of Daniels who asked not to be named said whatever happens in the cases Daniels helped build, “He’s not coming back . . . it’s hard for his family.”
The family wants to know why law enforcement couldn’t save Daniels, the friend said.
“They were supposed to protect him.”