Third man found guilty in killing of Chicago cop
BY RUMMANA HUSSAIN Criminal Courts Reporter October 9, 2013 11:28AM
Chicago police officer Alejandro Valadez was fatally shot in June 2009. | Family photo via Chicago Police Department
Updated: November 11, 2013 12:14PM
A Cook County jury convicted the man prosecutors described as the gunman in the fatal drive-by shooting of Chicago Police Officer Alejandro “Alex” Valadez after nearly seven hours of deliberations late Wednesday night.
Christopher Harris, 24, was the third of three defendants to be found guilty on murder and attempted murder charges connected to the June 1, 2009, killing in a vacant Englewood lot.
Earlier Wednesday, a separate jury found the getaway driver in the shooting, Kevin Walker, 25, guilty of the same charges.
“Nothing is going to bring my brother back, but we are just so grateful that justice has been served,” Valadez’s sister, Brenda Valadez, said through tears.
Reputed gang-banger Shawn Gaston, 24, a friend of Harris and Walker, is serving a 125-year prison sentence for his role in the deadly shooting.
But Harris fired the shots that killed Valadez in the 6000 block of South Hermitage, according to Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and her assistant Jeffrey Allen.
Harris admitted to detectives that he stuck his arm out of Gaston’s mother’s Pontiac G6 and shot a .357 revolver several times the morning of the crime.
“I shot the .357 but I didn’t mean to aim at anybody,” Harris said in his videotaped confession prosecutors presented in their closing arguments. “I shot four or five at the most.”
Harris’ attorney, Tod Urban, contended that the experienced detectives “guided” Harris “down a path” and he told them what they wanted to hear.
“Things don’t line up as neatly as the state’s attorney wants them to,” Urban said, pointing to the inconclusive DNA evidence left on the murder weapon.
Harris, Walker and Gaston were retaliating for an earlier shooting when bullets showered over Valadez, 27. Instead of gunning down their enemies, they struck the plainclothed officer, who happened to be canvassing the area with other officers investigating the shots that had been fired at the trio.
“He died on that sidewalk . . . trying to protect the very people who killed him,” Allen said of Valadez.
Valadez’s son was born just months after he was killed. Although the child never felt his father’s arms around him, he may take solace in knowing that the men who took his father’s life will never hurt anybody else, Brenda Valadez said.
Valadez’s killers also were convicted in the attempted murder of Kelvin Thomas — the resident Valadez was interviewing when he was shot.
Shortly after the murder, Thomas’ sister, who used to live just feet away from the scene of the crime, identified Harris as the shooter in the back passenger seat of the Pontiac G6.
But when she testified in court last week, she couldn’t identify Harris — most likely because she didn’t want to be seen as a snitch, Alvarez concluded.
In court, Alvarez dismissed Urban’s description of Harris as a “scared” young man when he was picked up by police.
“Don’t be fooled by the choirboy look,” Alvarez said just feet away from Harris, who wore a black and gray sweater and glasses.
Harris made the choice to go after those who shot at him and his buddies, the top prosecutor told jurors.
“The only person leading Christopher Harris down a path is Christopher Harris. . . . He made a choice that night to become a murderer,” Alvarez said.
In 2010, the state’s attorney’s office drafted and helped pass the “Valadez Law,” which mandates a prison sentence for unlawful possession of a firearm by a gang member.