A Chicago Police officer testified Friday that he believes three out-of-town activists drove by the Chicago Board of Trade, several banks and within “two or three” blocks of President Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters in order to identify targets to attack during the NATO summit.
“I believe they were on a mission scouting out targets for criminal activity,” said Russell Bacius, the officer who had placed a GPS tracker under the maroon Ford Taurus used by Brian Church, Jared Chase and Brent Betterly in the spring of 2012.
But during cross-examination in the NATO3’s terrorism trial, Bacius conceded that he didn’t know if the men were actually in the vehicle when it was downtown.
There were no audio recordings in the car during that drive. Data also shows the car was near the headquarters of Occupy Chicago, a branch of the larger social protest movement the group was passionate about.
However, Bacius dismissed the possibility of innocent joyriding. “It would be unreasonable to think they were just looking for parking,” he said.
The Molotov cocktails, pipe bombs and bows and arrows the men were allegedly planning to use during protests were not “minor,” Bacius said. “They can cause major damage and kill numerous people,” he said.
Defense attorneys have argued that their clients are unsophisticated men who were pushed to scheme by the pair of undercover cops who befriended them.
Often, the NATO3 were high or under the influence of alcohol, their lawyers suggested.
One of the undercover officers — Nadia Chikko — continued Friday to deny that she encouraged the men with their alleged plots.
Chikko said that Church was “coherent” the same day her male partner was recorded asking him if he had “smoked some bud” or something.
The male undercover officer nicknamed “Mo” later told Church he needed to come up with his plans [for NATO] before he “hits the bowl” — an apparent reference to smoking marijuana.
But Chikko said she thought when her partner said “bowl,” he meant using the “washroom, number two.”
Chikko’s inference, which caused laughter in the Cook County Judge Thaddeus Wilson’s courtroom, prompted Church’s attorney Michael Deutsch to say, “I hope all your answers are honest.”