Cook County to Spend $25 Million to Address Gun Violence

By James R. Scott, The Chicago Times

February 22, 2023

CHICAGO – The Illinois Department of Human Services Office of Firearm Violence Prevention in partnership with Cook County’s Justice Advisory Council announced Tuesday $25 million in grants to fund service providers focused on supporting residents at risk of experiencing gun violence in Chicago and Suburban Cook County.

“Gun violence is not inevitable or a sacrifice that we must make in the false name of freedom. And here in Illinois, we treat gun violence like the public health emergency that it is.  Throughout my administration, we have taken an inter-agency approach to address our uniquely American problem—and this partnership between Cook County and IDHS is the latest example of the many ways we are investing in our communities to prevent gun violence before it strikes.”  said Illions Governor JB Pritzker.

“Working together, we will rise to the challenge of addressing gun violence in our region.  For the past three years, we have engaged in an unprecedented level of intergovernmental coordination around gun violence prevention.  This funding is a testament to our shared commitment to building safe and thriving communities in Cook County, and throughout Illinois. We will continue to invest in effective, equitable, and sustainable solutions that address the root causes of gun violence in our communities.” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

“This funding demonstrates a commitment among Illinois leaders to cooperate and eliminate bureaucratic hurdles so that qualified violence prevention providers can quickly receive the resources that they need to adequately address firearm violence, one of our state’s most significant public health challenges.  As partners, we will continue to take a thoughtful, targeted approach to violence intervention in communities with the highest rates of firearm violence. Together, through our partnership with Cook County, across all levels of government, and alongside our community stakeholders, we are working effectively to prevent and reduce gun violence.”  said Chris Patterson, Assistant Secretary, the Illinois Department of Human Services.

The $25 million in funding will allow for 39 grant awards to individual organizations and coalitions to support 74 service providers working to build safer communities throughout.

“Throughout Cook County, community-based service providers are leading the way in delivering culturally-responsive, innovative, and effective gun violence prevention programming.  These organizations are working on the front lines of the gun violence crisis and they need robust and sustained support to make a lasting impact.  Cook County is grateful to be collaborating with the Illinois Department of Human Services Office of Firearm Violence Prevention whose support is allowing us to scale up funding to meet the great need for services.” said Executive Director of the Justice Advisory Council Avik Das.

In 2022, the Illinois Department of Human Services issued Notices of Funding Opportunities that were available across Cook County to provide similar services to those outlined in the JAC initiative.

Three Men Charged with Armed Robbery in Bridgeport 

By The Chicago Times Staff

February 21, 2023

CHICAGO – Three Chicago men have been charged in the armed robbery of a man in Bridgeport back in December 2022.

According to Chicago police, Dashun McGraw, 19, of the 600 block of N. Troy St., Marquise Green, 21, of the 2900 block of S. Dearborn St., and Marchello Hicks, 21, of the 600 block of N. Trumbull Ave, were arrested by Vehicular Hijacking Task on February 20 and have all been charged with one felony count of armed robbery with a firearm.

It is alleged that all three suspects, on December 11, 2022, at approximately 8:16 am, robbed a 57-year-old male victim at gunpoint in the 1100 block of W. 31st St.  No additional information is available at this time.

All three suspects appeared for a bond hearing at 2600 S. California Ave on February 21, 2023.

Four Men Charged with Attempted Murder in Addison 

By Kathy Whitaker, The Chicago Times

February 19, 2023

ADDISON, IL – Four Cook County men have been charged in the attempted murder of two people in Addison on February 16.

According to prosecutors, Brandon Pichardo, 23, of the 8800 block of S. Harlem, Bridgeview; Damian Gonzales, 24, of the 4600 block of S. California, Chicago; Irubiel Martinez, 19, of the 4100 block of S. Campbell, Chicago; and Efrain Garcia, 27, of the 2500 block of W. 46th Place, Chicago, have been charged with attempted murder and two counts of aggravated battery.  Bond has been set at $2 million for each.

Damian Gonzalez, Efrain Garcia, Irubiel Martinez, and Brandon Pichardo.

According to Addison police, on February 16, at approximately 12:42 pm, officers responded to a call of “shots fired” on the 500 block of S. Wisconsin.  Responding officers found two victims with multiple gunshot wounds in a Jeep SUV parked in the driveway of a residence.  Both victims were seated in the front driver’s and passenger’s seats.  Both victims were taken to an area hospital for treatment.

Police reports indicate that the victims were seated in the Jeep when four men arrived in a Nissan Altima.  It is alleged Gonzalez, Pichardo, and Garcia exited the Nissan and approached the victims’ Jeep.  It is further alleged that Gonzalez shot at the victims, striking one of the victims two times and the other eleven times.  Police said that following the shooting, all four defendants fled the scene.  In the course of an investigation by the Addison Police Department led to the identification and arrest of the four suspects.  Pichardo, Gonzales, and Martinez were arrested February 16.  Garcia was taken into custody on February 17, 2023.

“The allegations that these men ambushed a parked vehicle and, in a frightening display of violence, opened fire in the middle of the afternoon in a residential neighborhood are outrageous.  This alleged complete disregard and disdain for public safety and the rule of law will not stand in DuPage County.  Through the truly outstanding work of the Addison Police Department, however, the men suspected in this violent attack have been apprehended, charged and will face an aggressive prosecution.  Public safety remains a top priority of not only my office, but of law enforcement throughout the County.  The victims’ injuries are very serious and we are all concerned for their well-being.  I thank the Hinsdale, Elmhurst and Villa Park Police Departments for their collaborative efforts and assistance in this case. I also thank Assistant State’s Attorneys Helen Kapas and Grace Barsanti for their efforts on this case as well.” DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert B. Berlin said in a statement.

All four defendants are scheduled to appear for arraignment on March 20, 2023.

Man Sentenced to Nineteen Years for Carjacking at Knife Point

By T.C. Mayfield, The Chicago Times

February 17, 2023

WHEATON – The first of two men accused of hijacking a woman’s car at knife point from a Villa Park parking lot while her two children were in the back seat has been sentenced to nineteen years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Luis Gomez-Garcia.

According to prosecutors, Luis Gomez-Garcia, 30, formerly of Bensenville, entered a plea of guilty to one count of aggravated kidnapping.

On October 10, 2021, Gomez-Garcia and co-defendant, Christopher Krieg, 34, formerly of Carol Stream, appeared in Bond Court where bond was denied for both men. 

According to court records, on October 8, 2021, Villa Park police officers responded to a call of an aggravated carjacking in a parking lot of a shopping mall located at 270 W. North Avenue in Villa Park.  Police reported that at approximately 4:48 pm, the victim and her children, ages ten and five, exited the mall and entered her vehicle and was approached by Gomez-Garcia who allegedly put a 3 ½” knife to the mother’s throat through an open window and demanded the victim move over to the front passenger seat. 

Allegedly, Krieg then entered the rear passenger area of the vehicle with the victim’s children. Gomez-Garcia allegedly then ordered the victim to handover her property which included an iPhone 11, Apple Watch, and wallet. It is further alleged that Gomez-Garcia demanded the victim to drive to her house, but the victim drove to a different location where she and her children were released. Gomez-Garcia allegedly told the victim not to contact the police and that he held the knife in his right hand the entire time.  Gomez-Garcia and Krieg then allegedly fled in the victim’s vehicle.

A joint investigation by the Villa Park Police Department and the Chicago Police Department led to the arrest of Gomez-Garcia and Krieg in the 2900 block of W. Harrison in Chicago.  

“The shockingly violent conduct that Mr. Gomez-Garcia pled guilty to this morning, which is also alleged against his co-defendant, is simply horrifying.  I cannot begin to imagine the heart-stopping fear and terror this woman and her two young children were forced to endure while Mr. Gomez-Garcia held a knife to her throat and Mr. Krieg was allegedly in the back seat with the children. Thankfully neither the woman nor her children were physically harmed during this alleged incident.” DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin.    

Metra Approves New Strategic Plan

By Jeff L. Tucker, The Chicago Times

February 16, 2023

CHICAGO – Metra announced Wednesday the approval of a new 2023-2027 strategic plan that focuses on addressing the operational and financial challenges of a post-COVID world and sets ambitious goals for the agency’s evolution and growth.

The My Metra, Our Future strategic plan is an update to the previous plan, On Track to Excellence, which focused on Metra’s operating and capital funding shortfalls. The new plan will focus on variety of new challenges brought on by the pandemic, including new commuting patterns, demands for new service options and attracting and retaining workers.

To fulfill Metra’s mission and vision, the strategic plan is built around five equally important and related goals. They reflect the evolving priorities of Metra, regional transit needs, and customers:

  • Enhance service to grow ridership and provide mobility choices
  • Ensure the Metra experience is safe, easy, and enjoyable for all customers
  •  Attract a diverse workforce and invest in our employees
  •  Innovate to become more efficient and effective
  • Be a socially responsible organization committed to equity and sustainability

“With the vision and goals that are outlined in this new strategic plan, we are recognizing that Metra must adapt and evolve to meet our riders’ and the region’s transit needs.  It won’t be easy, but we will do everything within our ability and budget to achieve these goals and make our new vision a reality.” said Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski.

Bears Close on Arlington Heights Deal

By George Reagan, The Chicago Times

February 16, 2023

CHICAGO – The Chicago Bears announced Wednesday in an open letter that the team has closed on the Arlington Park Property.

The Bears warn fans that the closing on the property doesn’t seal the deal on a new stadium being built on the former horse race track.

“Finalizing the purchase does not guarantee the land will be developed, but it is an important next step in our ongoing evaluation of the opportunity.” Bears management said in an open letter.

The potential Bears “project” on the Arlington Heights property could produce 48,000 jobs, generate $9.4 billion in economic impact for the Chicagoland economy, and provide $3.9 billion in new labor income to workers in Illinois.

As of now, the Bears have said they will not will not seek taxpayer funds to construct a new stadium.  However, the construction of a new stadium would require assistance to ensure feasibility, including securing property tax certainty, and support for infrastructure that will benefit the community and region.