Cook Co.’s top prosecutor takes lead in trial of alleged cop killer
BY JON SEIDEL and art golab Staff Reporters September 30, 2013 1:24PM
Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez. | Sun-Times files
Updated: November 2, 2013 6:07AM
Four years ago, Chicago Police Officer Alejandro “Alex” Valadez became just another grim statistic, Cook County’s top prosecutor told a jury Monday.
Taking a rare lead in a criminal prosecution, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez pointed to 24-year-old Christopher Harris, an alleged gunman sitting quietly nearby wearing glasses, a white shirt and a dark cardigan sweater.
“And this defendant here?” Alvarez said. “Well, this defendant became a murderer.”
It all happened after someone fired a gun earlier at Harris’ friends, Shawn Gaston and Kevin Walker, she said. The pair was allegedly bent on revenge and collected a .40 caliber pistol and a rifle.
And they picked up Harris, who brought along a .357 revolver.
Harris’ trial for Valadez’s murder began Monday at the George N. Leighton Criminal Court Building with Alvarez delivering her opening statement. Gaston, 25, has already been convicted for the officer’s murder and is serving a 125-year prison sentence. Walker, also 25, will go on trial this week in front of a separate jury.
The men allegedly drove to the 6000 block of South Hermitage. When they got there, Valadez and other officers were investigating the same shooting. Valadez, 27, was talking to another man, Kelvin Thomas.
That’s when, Alvarez said, two volleys of gunfire erupted from a passing car. She said Harris reached his entire arm out the window from the back passenger seat and fired.
“And he shoots, and he shoots, and he shoots and he shoots,” Alvarez said, pacing in front of the jury.
One bullet hit Valadez’s left ear, piercing his brain, she said. Another hit the cop in his thigh. Both matched the gun Alvarez said Harris fired that night.
Eight .40-caliber casings were also found at the scene.
Afterward the men stashed their car at 61st and Paulina, she said, left their guns in the trunk and went to a party. Alvarez said Harris rolled himself a joint.
“He’s gonna smoke a little weed,” Alvarez said.
But investigators later found the car and, along with it, the guns and a ninth .40-caliber casing.
All nine casings matched the .40-caliber gun found in the car, Alvarez said. Harris also had gunshot residue on his hands, she said.
But that’s where Harris’ defense attorney, Tod Urban, began to poke holes in the state’s attorney’s case.
Gunshot residue could mean Harris fired a gun, he said. Or, Urban said, it could mean he was near a gun that was fired or near someone who fired a gun.
He also pointed out Harris wasn’t arrested until weeks later and was identified by a person who initially said she didn’t see the shooting.
“It’s not as clear cut as it was laid out to you,” Urban told the jury.
Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Jeff Allen delivered a passionate opening statement to a separate jury trying Walker, the alleged driver.
Over defense objections, Allen repeatedly called Walker “Killer Kev,” saying that nickname is “going to come out of his own mouth” in a videotaped confession to police.
Walker also incriminated himself in two recorded phone calls to his family from Cook County jail.
Talking to his mother Walker said, “‘I was just the driver,’” Allen said. “You know what, he was the driver, but I don’t agree with the ‘just.’ “
Allen said that after the first round of shots was fired, Walker pulled into a parking spot so his accomplices “could get a better shot.”
“Under the law, you are not just the driver, it is as if your finger is pulling that trigger,” Allen told the jury.
Defense attorney Elizabeth Kucaba hinted that Walker may have confessed under duress, and said that the rest of the case against him is circumstantial.
The Cook County state’s attorney’s office drafted and helped pass the “Valadez Law” in 2010 which mandates a prison sentence for unlawful possession of a firearm by a gang member.