Jury convicts South Side man in murder of Chicago police officer
BY RUMMANA HUSSAIN Criminal Courts Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org September 28, 2011 8:18PM
Shawn Gaston (left) was found guilty of murdering Chicago Police Officer Alejandro “Alex” Valadez on Wednesday.
Updated: November 11, 2011 5:17PM
Shawn Gaston was itching for vengeance when he opened fire on a pair of men standing in a vacant Englewood lot two years ago.
On Wednesday, it was Gaston’s turn to pay for pulling the trigger. A Cook County jury found him guilty of murdering Chicago Police Officer Alejandro “Alex” Valadez.
Gaston, who was dressed in a black dress shirt and had his dreadlocks pulled back in a ponytail, showed no emotion when the guilty verdicts were read shortly after 9 p.m.
The jury deliberated for about 2 1/2 hours before convicting the South Side man.
Valadez’s family softly wept and comforted one another as they had throughout the seven-day trial that was attended by Police Supt. Garry McCarthy and dozens of other officers.
Gaston’s conviction was “not a happy occasion,” the slain officer’s sister said.
“My parents will never see their last born son again,” said a tearful Brenda Valadez, also a Chicago Police officer.
“My siblings and I will never share another holiday. My nieces and nephews no longer have their silly uncle that made them laugh. My son will not have a godfather to guide him. But worst of all, my nephew, who was born three months after my brother was murdered, will never know what his daddy’s hugs and kisses feel like.
“His daddy will not be there on his first day of school. His daddy will not be there to cheer him at T-ball or guide him through his life and share all those wonderful memories that wonderful and loving fathers share with their sons.”
Gaston was also found guilty of the attempted murder of a middle-aged Englewood resident Valadez was interviewing when a bullet from a .357 caliber handgun pierced the plain-clothed officer’s left ear and thigh.
Gaston, 22, is facing between 61 to 101 years in prison.
Valadez, 27, was investigating an earlier volley of gunshots that were aimed at Gaston, when Gaston and his two friends slowly descended on the officer in Gaston’s mother’s car.
In his closing arguments, assistant state’s attorney Frank Marek said Gaston’s rage was so fierce, he wasn’t concerned about who he might hurt when he hung out of the front passenger seat window of the gray Pontiac G6 and repeatedly fired a .40 caliber weapon in the 6000 block of South Hermitage.
“He [Gaston] returns with a vengeance. He returns armed to the teeth,” Marek said of the June 1, 2009 incident.
“Is it too much to ask to look at who he’s shooting at before he pulls the trigger? He doesn’t care to know because he has no respect for human life no matter who is at the other end of his gun.”
Gaston, in his videotaped confession, said he aimed in the area where Valadez had been standing, claiming he was armed with a 9mm gun.
“I did the shooting,” Gaston nonchalantly said on tape.
Gaston was telling the truth about the shooting, but lying about the weapon, Marek insisted, noting the similarities between a 9mm and .40 caliber weapon.
Police discovered the .40 caliber gun along with a rifle and the .357 weapon tied to Valadez’s murder in the Pontiac’s trunk, and Gaston had gunshot residue on his hands following the deadly shooting, Marek said.
Even if the ammunition from Gaston’s gun did not touch Valadez, Gaston could be found guilty of murder, Marek reminded the jurors during his closing arguments.
“That was team Gaston in Mama’s car, and ladies and gentlemen, when the team wins, everyone shares in the triumph, and when the team loses, everyone shares in the agony of defeat,” the prosecutor said.
Gaston’s attorney, a former Chicago Police homicide detective, insinuated that officers planted the guns in the car and conspired against his client because he is a “black kid from Englewood.”
“I don’t think they’re telling the truth,” John Paul Carroll said of the numerous officers who testified before Judge Jorge Alonso. “Something is going on. I don’t know what it is. But it’s something.”
Carroll referenced the Salem Witch trial, the ancient Roman philosopher Cicero, and the Nazi “hero” of Nanking when arguing for Gaston’s innocence.
State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, who was trying her first case since her 2008 election, tore into Carroll for his “idiotic baseless theories.” Alvarez said if officers had wanted to make up lies, they would have concocted more elaborate tales than the ones Carroll suggested.
“Police did their job in this case, and they followed the evidence,” she said.
“ [Gaston is] not a kid. He knows very well what he did, “ Alvarez later said. “This is not CSI. This is not some murder mystery movie. This is reality.”
Gaston’s codefendants — Kevin Walker and Chistopher Harris — are awaiting trial for Valadez’s murder.