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Police maintain ‘presence’ at reputed gang member’s funeral

Police are searching for weapons parking lot St. Andrew Temple Baptist Church W. Marquette Rd.  after report gun car

Police are searching for weapons in parking lot of St. Andrew Temple Baptist Church, W. Marquette Rd., after report of gun in a car at funeral for Sherman Miller, a Gangster Disciples member killed on the steps of a Church, Tuesday, December 4, 2012 . | John H. White~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 6, 2013 10:07AM

This time, the cops brought the guns to the funeral.

Last week, a killer shocked Chicago when he fatally shot a reputed gang member on the steps of a South Side church after a funeral for another man.

The Chicago Police Department wasn’t going to let that happen again. So dozens of officers, some armed with assault rifles, were assigned to monitor Tuesday’s funeral of Sherman Miller, last week’s murder victim.

They watched from a distance as reputed members of the Brick Squad faction of the Gangster Disciples — which police say Miller was affiliated with — flashed gang signs and danced to rap music blaring from their cars in the church parking lot.

“We are showing a presence at the funeral, but not an overbearing presence,” Chicago Police Cmdr. Christopher Fletcher said. “We want to let them know we are here.”

After the funeral at St. Andrews Temple Baptist Church in the 1700 block of West Marquette in the West Englewood neighborhood, the gang members returned to the parking lot where they continued to hang out.

That’s when the officers moved in.

A line of uniformed cops armed with assault weapons stood guard while commanders ordered the suspected gang members to leave. Some argued with the police before they drove away.

Meanwhile, officers acted on a tip that a gun was hidden in a van in the lot. Some officers searched the van. Other officers checked the IDs of the men in the van. The officers didn’t find a weapon and the men were allowed to go.

Soon, the parking lot was empty except for the police and a handful of Miller’s family members.

“Nobody got shot,” Fletcher said. “Mission accomplished.”

He noted that police also stopped a stolen van in the neighborhood and were investigating whether the men arrested in connection with the van had been heading to the funeral to cause trouble.

Police Supt. Garry McCarthy ordered the heavy security for the funeral after learning that Miller was in a video displaying a gun this summer as he rode in a funeral procession for yet another murder victim, rapper Joseph “Lil Jojo” Coleman.

The video shows Miller holding what appears to be a TEC-9 pistol. He joked about a police car passing the vehicle he was riding in.

“It was upsetting to the superintendent. It was upsetting to every police officer. It’s not funny,” Fletcher said of the video, which the Chicago Sun-Times posted Monday.

“If someone is bold enough to ride in a funeral procession while police officers are standing guard — and display an automatic weapon with police 10 feet away — that’s unacceptable. We want to set the tone and let them know this is unacceptable. If you’re going to participate in a funeral, you have to obey the law,” he said.

Miller’s family originally planned for a hearse to carry Miller’s casket from the church to Mount Hope Cemetery on the Southwest Side.

A police helicopter was on stand-by to escort the funeral procession to the cemetery. Officers planned to follow the procession and watch for any illegal conduct.

But the burial was canceled Tuesday because Miller’s family was unable to pay the bill, said the Rev. Corey Brooks, who spoke at the funeral. His body was returned to the funeral home, Brooks said .

Police said they’re continuing to investigate Miller’s slaying. Sources said they believe he was involved in an internal conflict with members of his own gang faction. He may have been killed because he robbed someone else, sources said.

After his funeral, Miller’s grandmother said she supported the strong police presence.

“The police officers needed to be here for the safety of the people in the church,” said Katie Sistrunk of Las Vegas, Nev. “Sherman had bad company. If he was in the right company, we wouldn’t be here today.”

Still, she criticized the officers’ display of assault weapons as “a little heavy-handed” and said the police presence seemed to be “for show and tell.”

Brooks said the police presence was “very necessary to keep stuff from jumping off, but it’s just the manner in which all the stuff happened afterward. I don’t know if that was the best tactic. ... It kept everyone in a rage.”

Treva Harris, a friend of Miller’s mother, said she was happy to see the police cars parked on the corners near the church.

“Sherman got killed at a funeral. Why not have all these police here?” Harris said. “[But] it’s sad you need police at a funeral. You can blink and lose your life in the city of Chicago.”

McCarthy acknowledged that “it’s sad we had to create a protocol to handle gang violence at funerals,” adding, “this will be ongoing.”

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