Slain cop’s partner testifies about shooting’s aftermath: ‘He never responded’
BY RUMMANA HUSSAIN Criminal Courts Reporter email@example.com September 20, 2011 2:34PM
Shawn Gaston (left) was found guilty of murdering Chicago Police Officer Alejandro “Alex” Valadez on Wednesday.
Updated: November 10, 2011 2:43PM
Choking back sobs Tuesday, Chicago Police Officer Thomas Vargas told a jury how he shone his flashlight on his bleeding, fallen partner after a hail of bullets showered across a vacant Englewood lot.
“I could feel the rounds over my head as I tried to reach for my weapon,” Vargas said, his voice faltering as he testified against Shawn Gaston, a reputed gang member charged with Officer Alejandro “Alex” Valadez’s murder.
Vargas never got a chance to aim at his partner’s assailants as the blinding muzzle flashes whizzed past him in the 6000 block of South Hermitage. But as soon as the shooting stopped, Vargas rushed to the dying Valadez, 27.
“He was lying on the ground face up with his eyes opened. . . . I continued to talk to him but he never responded,” Vargas said as Valadez’s relatives quietly sobbed in Cook County Judge Jorge Alonso’s courtroom.
Valadez and Vargas, and other officers had dropped to the pavement when Gaston and his cohorts delivered a volley of 15 shots from Gaston’s mother’s Pontiac G6 in the early morning hours of June 1, 2009, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said, prosecuting her first case since her 2008 election.
Alvarez said the plain-clothed Englewood District officers had been following up on a report of shots fired when a bullet pierced through Valadez’s left ear and thigh.
Ironically, the earlier gunfire the pair investigated was apparently directed at Gaston and a friend who had just had just finished getting matching tattoos when they said they were targeted, prosecutors said.
Gaston, bent on vengeance, “took the matter into his own hands” and ended up gunning down Valadez, Alvarez said. The 22-year-old South Side man drank tequila and partied at a neighbor’s home just minutes after the officer’s murder, the top prosecutor said.
Gaston is also charged with the attempted murder of Kelvin Thomas, the resident Valadez was interviewing when he was slain.
Thomas, 51, was gripping Styrofoam boxes of nachos his sister whipped up for some revelers who had the “munchies” when he heard the rapid bangs.
“I ate dirt. . . . It seemed real appetizing at that point,” Thomas said, prompting laughter in the packed courtroom.
Gaston’s attorney John Paul Carroll maintained his client’s innocence, noting that DNA on the three weapons taken from the Pontiac did not match Gaston’s.
He also said it was physically impossible for the car Gaston was traveling in to be involved in the shooting since Valadez was shot in the left ear and the vehicle would have been on his right.
“It is physically impossible to shoot a person and have that kind of wound from a car sitting ten feet away,” he said.
Two others — Christopher Harris and Kevin Walker — are awaiting trial for Valadez’s murder.