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Cops’ business partner busted in gun raid, but case went nowhere

James B. Finkl Finkl Enterprises. | Courtesy Finkl Enterprises

James B. Finkl of Finkl Enterprises. | Courtesy Finkl Enterprises

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Updated: March 6, 2013 4:51PM

It’s been nearly three years since the Chicago Police Department seized a small arsenal of weapons — including four assault rifles — from the River North mansion of James B. Finkl, a steel company heir who owned a security business with two Chicago cops.

Finkl wasn’t charged. The case remained in limbo. And City Hall officials say they can’t explain why.

But now, after being asked about it, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration has ordered the police internal affairs division to investigate what happened to the case against Finkl, who was in business with police Officer Daniel J. Shields.

Ten months after the raid, Shields’ brother, Michael Shields, also a police officer, was elected president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 7, the union for Chicago cops.

The police raided Finkl’s home looking for an illegal, automatic assault rifle, which a tipster said he had fired in Finkl’s “basement firing range,” records show. Police reports don’t show whether officers found that gun — but they did confiscate 36 other weapons, including vintage handguns, several shotguns and four semi-automatic assault rifles, one with 40 live rounds of ammunition.

Finkl told the police he didn’t own any of the weapons — 11 of which were loaded. Later, they learned that he owned all of them.

Finkl was arrested the next day on 36 counts of unlawful use of a weapon, a state crime, and 36 counts of possessing guns that weren’t registered with the city of Chicago, a city ordinance violation.

The criminal charges were dropped because Finkl bought the guns with a valid Illinois Firearm Owners’ Identification card, according to police and prosecutors.

The police never returned the weapons, though. They say that’s because, even though the city hasn’t pursued the case, Finkl is still on the hook for the ordinance violation.

At the time of the raid at his 14,000-square-foot home, Finkl owned a company called Jetty Security with two Chicago cops: Dan Shields and Michael Malaniuk.

Finkl — who owns a black Humvee that has FOP stickers on the windshield — couldn’t be reached for comment.

Dan Shields’ lawyer says the officer’s business relationship with Finkl ended last year.

Mike Shields wouldn’t talk about his brother’s company or say whether he ever worked for it. He was elected president of the Fraternal Order of Police on March 4, 2011, and his brother became a sergeant-at-arms for the union.

Finkl is a member of the family that formerly owned A. Finkl & Sons Co., the Near North Side steel business founded in 1879, eight years after the Great Chicago Fire. The Finkls were major supporters of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, hosting political events for him at the steel plant where Blagojevich’s father once worked. The Finkls sold the steel company five years ago.

Finkl, 49, is founder and chief executive officer of Finkl Enterprises, whose holdings included Jetty Security, Radar Pictures and several other businesses. Radar has helped finance movies for Radar Productions, which is headed by former Chicago Sun-Times owner Ted Field. Some of those movie deals involved Richard J. “R.J.” Vanecko, the nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley who late last year was charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of David Koschman nearly nine years ago.

The narcotics division of the police department’s organized-crime unit raided Finkl’s house in the 400 block of West Huron on May 18, 2010, hours after an informant told police he had fired a fully automatic AR-15 rifle in Finkl’s basement that day. It would be a federal offense to own such a gun unless it is registered with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Officer James Polaski got a warrant to search Finkl’s home that day. The informant — identified in public records only as “J. Doe” — “observed James Finkl in possession of an AR-15, fully automatic assault rifle which James Finkl recovered from his bedroom,” according to the warrant, which also said the informant and Finkl went down to Finkl’s basement, “at which time J. Doe fired the rifle into a cement wall that was located at the end of the basement.”

“J. Doe squeezed the trigger one time and multiple rounds fired from the rifle.”

A woman let Polaski and other officers carrying out the search warrant into Finkl’s home around 3:30 p.m. that day, according to a police report. They reported finding 19 handguns, five rifles and three shotguns in Finkl’s third-floor bedroom and, in the basement, six rifles and three shotguns.

Finkl came home during the raid accompanied by a man who identified himself to the police as Finkl’s “security personnel.” The police wouldn’t provide his name.

“Finkl denied any ownership of the . . . recovered weapons and stated that he has frontal brain lobe damage due to a boating accident and has trouble remembering things,” according to the police report.

Finkl had been severely hurt in a 1995 powerboating race, according to a biography on his company’s website.

The police arrested Finkl at his home the following morning, May 19, 2010, on 36 counts of unlawful use of a weapon, the state crime. He also was accused of violating a city ordinance for failing to register the 36 weapons.

He was taken to the lockup at the 18th District police station — which is also where Dan Shields, his business partner at the time, worked. Fingerprinted there, Finkl was released about two hours later.

Finkl was scheduled to appear in misdemeanor court on July 2, 2010, but the Cook County Circuit Court clerk has no records on that case.

The arresting officer showed up in court that day, and a Cook County judge continued the case, according to Melissa Stratton, a police spokeswoman who referred additional questions to the city’s law department.

The law department responded with a written statement: “When the city was first alerted to this issue — that a court case might not have been filed or pursued after Finkl’s arrest in 2010 — the law department and Chicago Police Department immediately began to review the facts and disposition of the case.

“It appears that the circuit court clerk’s electronic database does not have on record a case corresponding to the May 19, 2010, arrest date. The city is still determining why the clerk did not receive this case in their database. As a result, and in light of the Sun-Times bringing this case to our attention:

“1. CPD immediately launched an internal affairs investigation to review the handling of this case.

“2. The Law Department is working with the County clerk’s office and CPD to have the case refiled.

“3. The weapons that were seized during the arrest remain in police custody as evidence.

“Once refiled, the charges against Mr. Finkl are anticipated to include the following violations of the Chicago Municipal Code: four counts of unlawful possession of an assault weapon and 36 counts of possession of an unregisterable firearm.

“As part of the refilling process, the defendant, Mr. Finkl, will be given notice that the proceedings are moving forward and given another date to appear.”

If found guilty, Finkl would face fines of as much as $5,000 and up to three months in jail.

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