DARING MID-MORNING ROBBERY AT OLD ORCHARD NORDSTROM

T. C. Mayfield, The Chicago Times

June 3, 2021

SKOKIE, IL — Skokie police are looking into a daring theft that occurred around 11:10 a.m. Tuesday morning.  Four female suspects allegedly stormed into the Nordstrom at Westfield Old Orchard mall and took entire racks of merchandise, stealing more than $10,000 in high-end bags, scarves, and socks.  One of the robbers allegedly threatened a guard with a bolt cutter, according to police.

According to Skokie Police, all of the suspects appear to be in their early twenties.  Numerous male suspects assisted in the store’s parking lot.  In connection with the incident, authorities are looking for a purple Pontiac Bonneville with Illinois license plates.

If you have any information, please contact Skokie Police at 847-982-5900.  The Skokie Crime Tip Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 847-933-TIPS.  Text “Skokie” and the information to 847411 if you have a tip.

BOND SET AT $5 MILLION FULL CASH FOR DES PLAINES MAN ACCUSED OF FIRING AT DUMEG AGENTS, POSSESSING LARGE AMOUNTS OF CANNABIS

DuPage County State’s Attorney

May 30, 2021

DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin, Wood Dale Chief of Police Greg Vesta and Illinois State Police Director Brendan F. Kelly announced today that bond has been set for a Des Plaines man accused of multiple weapons and drug charges following a high-speed pursuit last Thursday night. Nicholas Valentino, 33 (d.o.b. 11/17/1987) of the 8000 block of N. Western Avenue, appeared at a bond hearing this morning where Judge James Orel set bond at $5 million full cash. Judge Orel also granted the State’s motion for a proof-of-funds hearing for Valentino which will require Valentino to prove that any funds used to post bond was not gotten from illegal means, should he make bond. Valentino has been charged with one count of Unlawful Possession of Cannabis with Intent to Deliver (Class X Felony), one count of Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Deliver (Class X Felony), two counts of Armed Violence (Class X Felony) two counts of Aggravated Discharge of a Firearm (Class 1 Felony) and Aggravated Unlawful Use of a Weapon (Class 4 Felony).

During the evening of May 27, 2021, Officers with the DuPage County Metropolitan Enforcement Group (DuMeg) were conducting surveillance at a warehouse suspected in drug activity in Wood Dale.  While conducting surveillance agents observed a van and a Volkswagen leave the warehouse. It is alleged that Valentino was driving the Volkswagen. Agents continued surveillance on the vehicles into the city of Chicago before terminating surveillance. As the agents returned from Chicago, agents again saw the van and began surveillance. Agents attempted to stop the van but it did not stop. Agents continued to follow the van. While on a residential street in Wood Dale, the van flashed its headlights and then came to an abrupt stop at which time agents observed an individual, later identified as Valentino, on the street allegedly pointing a gun at them. It is alleged that Valentino fired two shots at the agents’ car. The agents reversed their car and were not hit by the gunfire. It is alleged that after firing at the agents, Valentino entered the same Volkswagen the agents conducted surveillance on earlier and fled the scene at a high rate of speed along with the van. It is alleged that prior to the shooting, the Volkswagen had stopped to set up an ambush of the Agents. Agents began pursuit of the two vehicles through residential areas of Wood Dale and eventually onto Route 83 where the two vehicles went in separate directions. Agents followed the Volkswagen. A short time later, the Volkswagen was involved in a vehicle crash with a Bensenville squad car and an unmarked DuMeg squad car.  It is alleged that Valentino was the driver and only occupant of the Volkswagen. He was taken into custody at this time. It is alleged that in the center console of the Volkswagen officers located a full magazine for an AR-15 assault rifle and two cell phones. Officers with the Wood Dale Police Department processed the scene of the shooting and recovered two discharged .223 caliber assault rifle shell casings as well as one live .223 round, the same type of ammunition allegedly recovered from the magazine in the Volkswagen driven by the Valentino.  After the pursuit an AR-15 style assault rifle with no magazine and one round jammed in the chamber was found in Bensenville on a residential street allegedly along Valentino’s path of travel. The following day, a search warrant was executed at the Wood Dale warehouse where authorities allegedly found approximately forty pallets of vacuum-sealed cannabis totaling approximately 7,688 pounds, approximately 406 pounds of cannabis edibles, 6,891 THC cartridges and more than 700 grams psilocybin mushroom bars. The estimated street value of the cannabis recovered in the warehouse is approximately $22,000,000. Authorities also recovered more than $107,000, an AK-47 and 9 mm ammunition.

“The allegations against Mr. Valentino are completely outrageous,” Berlin said. “While recreational marijuana is legal in Illinois, the allegations that Mr. Valentino was in possession of such large quantities of marijuana underscores the fact that there is a thriving illegal black market that demands the attention of law enforcement. I cannot say enough about the efforts of the DuMeg agents involved in the apprehension of Mr. Valentino. With a watchful eye, they were able to pick up surveillance on a vehicle they had followed earlier that day and even after allegedly being shot at by the defendant, they continued pursuit which resulted in the apprehension of the defendant. This case is another reminder of the extreme danger officers face day in and day out as they protect the public. I commend those agents for their courage and dedication to their profession. I would like to thank the Illinois State Police as well as the Wood Dale Police and Bensenville Police Departments for their outstanding efforts that led to the apprehension of the defendant in this case. I would also like to thank Assistant State’ Attorneys Demetri Demopoulos and Matthew Dambach for their efforts the past several day in preparing a strong case against Mr. Valentino.”

“The Illinois State Police is proud of the cooperative efforts of all our partners in law enforcement as they worked this case,” ISP Director Brendan F. Kelly said. “The importance of these partnerships through DuMEG and similar units across the state, along with the exemplary work of the men and women in the ISP, cannot be overstated as they take violent drug dealers off of our streets.”

 “Thankfully, the agents and residents of our community were not injured during this encounter. I commend the officers involved for their dedication to apprehend the offender despite the immediate danger to themselves,” Vesta said. “I am grateful for the tireless efforts of our officers and the success of our partnerships with other agencies and the State’s Attorney’s office to bring this case to prosecution.”

Valentino’s next court date is scheduled for June 28, 2021 for arraignment in front of Judge Ann Celine O’Hallaren Walsh.     

Members of the public are reminded that this complaint contains only charges and is not proof of the defendants’ guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial in which it is the government’s burden to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

DuPage County State’s Attorney

2 MEN SHOT AT NORTH AURORA GROCERY STORE

by James R. Scott, The Chicago Times

June 1, 2021

NORTH AURORA, IL — Tuesday evening, two men were shot in the parking lot of a North Aurora grocery store.  According to North Aurora Police, officers discovered the two victims with gunshot wounds in the parking lot of Woodman’s Market at 151 Hansen Blvd around 6:30 p.m.  According to police, one male was taken to a local hospital in critical condition.  The other was taken in good condition as well.

North Aurora Police believe the victims were targeted by the gunman.  The suspects is being sought by police in North Aurora and surrounding area.

TEEN GIRL SURVIVES BEAR ATTACK

by The Chicago Times Staff

June 1, 2021

BRADBURY, CA — A 17-year-old girl shoved a mother bear off a brick wall to save her family’s dogs.  Local residents agitated over increased bear activity.

Three dogs in the enclosed yard become agitated and bark at a mother bear and her cubs perched on a brick wall separating the back yard from a neighbor’s property, according to video captured by a security camera at Hailey Morinico’s home in the San Gabriel Valley. 

A security camera mounted on the family home shows Morinico running into the yard, shoving the bear off the wall, and gathering the dogs to bring them inside after the mother bear swats at them as they approach to bark at the wild bears.

An unnamed witness said “It was the most unbelievable thing I’ve ever seen.  This teen comes running out and pushes a wild bear off a wall, a wild bear, mind you.  Unbelievable! I don’t know if I would have done the same.  You know, these days it’s like we live at the bear dump.  Unbelievable.”

Morinico escaped with a minor scratch.  There is no report on the condition or whereabouts of the marauding mother bear or her cubs.  Animal rights groups decried the bear was only protecting her cubs; but local residents feel unsafe at the frequent incursions and wonder who will protect them.

CHINA: MAN INFECTED WITH H10N3 BIRD FLU

by The Chicago Times Staff

June 1, 2021

JIANGSU — The Chinese government said Tuesday that a man in eastern China has contracted what could be the world’s first human case of the H10N3 strain of bird flu.  Medical officials claim the risk of widespread infection is low.

The 41-year-old man was hospitalized April 28 in Jiangsu Province, northwest of Shanghai, and is in stable condition, according to the National Health Commission’s website.  According to the commission, no human cases of H10N3 have been reported elsewhere.  The infection was caused by an unintentional cross-species transmission, according to the statement.

The news comes as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to claim lives around the world, raising awareness of the threat of emerging diseases.  Unlike coronaviruses, however, global influenza surveillance systems have been monitoring human cases of bird flu since a strain known as H5N1 emerged in Hong Kong’s crowded live-poultry markets in the late 1990s.

In China, between 2012 and 2018, another bird flu strain known as H7N9 infected over 1,500 people through close contact with infected chickens.  Given this history, authorities are not surprised to see human cases of various bird flu strains on a regular basis.

$42 BILLION ILLINOIS BUDGET & ELECTION BILL WAITING FOR PRITZKER’S PEN

by Frank Conklin, The Chicago Times

June 1, 2021

SPRINGFIELD, IL — Illinois lawmakers stayed up to the wee hours Tuesday in Springfield, passing a budget proposal and other bills.  Legislators did not get around to debating the proposed $42.2 billion budget until after 11:30 p.m. and passed the bill at 2:30 am.

The bill will now be sent to Gov. Pritzker for signature.  In addition, lawmakers passed a comprehensive election bill that includes relocating the primary from March 15 to June 28 next year.  They also approved a package of ineffective ethics reforms for legislators.

Illinois lawmakers began putting together a state budget on Monday, based on tax revenue sources that have recovered much faster than expected from the global pandemic, as well as $2.5 billion in spending from a multiyear federal relief package.

The plan put together on the last day of the spring session incorporates only a portion of the $8 billion in COVID-19 relief money Illinois expects from Congress last winter – but that pot includes $1 billion in additional construction projects, a fund that was only known to Democrats until Monday.

House Majority Leader Greg Harris declared a balanced budget, which includes the $350 million extra for public schools promised in a 2017 school-funding overhaul, but which Gov. Pritzker initially said would have to be skipped for the second year in a row.

In comparison to the rest of the legislative agenda, which had to be completed by midnight, after which adopting legislation required a three-fifths majority vote, the budget was expected to be a relatively easy lift.  Following the deadly 2019 Aurora warehouse shooting, there was a contentious plan to tighten gun ownership restrictions, as well as a pandemic-interrupted ethics overhaul that appeared in bipartisan form early Monday evening.

The Senate proposal would prohibit sitting legislators from lobbying other government units, a practice exposed in a fall 2019 bribery indictment, and establish a six-month cooling-off period to end the long-despised practice of a legislator resigning one day and lobbying ex-colleagues the next.  However, Chicago, which has its own program, is exempt from the creation of a statewide registration system for lobbyists at all levels of government.  The conflicting systems opening loopholes prompted a question from reporters attending a briefing on the measure.

The budget plan paints a much brighter picture than the “pain” – deep budget cuts – that Pritzker predicted would be unavoidable after voters soundly rejected his proposed constitutional amendment in November, which would have allowed for a graduated income tax system that would have taxed the wealthy more harshly and generated an extra $3 billion per year.

The ballot initiative was denounced by Republicans as a blank check for free-spending Democrats, who control both houses of the General Assembly and the governorship.  They persisted in their claims that Pritzker had more than enough money as revenues continued to exceed expectations.

Their reward was a promise from Pritzker to cut fewer of the business and job-creating incentives they negotiated with the Democrat in 2019, tax breaks that the governor lauded at the time but now refers to as unaffordable “loopholes.”  To raise $636 million in additional revenue, Democrats drafting the budget planned to cut three programs.  Pritzker proposed eliminating eight incentivized spending programs in February.

Illinois’ allotment of the American Rescue Plan Act would provide $1.5 billion to pandemic-affected areas of the state.  Hundreds of millions of dollars would be set aside for the Department of Human Services to help the homeless, prevent suicide, counsel schoolchildren through the trauma of the previous year, and provide services “for our first responders who have gone through a year of hell and deserve all the support we can give them,” according to Harris.  The tourism and hospitality industries, which are in bad shape, would receive $528 million.

Illinois borrowed $5 billion from the federal government to pay unemployment benefits to those who were displaced as a result of the pandemic.  ARPA would contribute $100 million to cover the interest on the loan, but principal repayment would be deferred.

However, another massive debt has been paid off.  At the height of the pandemic last summer, the state owed $1.2 billion on a $3.2 billion federal loan, which was due in December 2023.  Pritzker and legislative leaders announced ten days ago that they would pay off the loan early to save $100 million in interest.

In addition to the ongoing $51 billion Rebuild Illinois infrastructure plan approved in 2019, the ARPA cache is providing $1 billion for additional construction projects leading up to the 2022 election season.

House Republican budget negotiator Rep. Tom Demmer of Dixon questioned Harris on how projects are chosen.   It is the “normal process,” according to Harris, for legislators and state agencies to make requests for work to be done.