Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy (pictured on Aug. 7, 2015) said on Monday that he thinks a commander and an officer were justified in fatally shooting a driver over the weekend. | Tim Boyle/For the Sun-Times

McCarthy: Commander appears justified in fatally shooting driver

SHARE McCarthy: Commander appears justified in fatally shooting driver
SHARE McCarthy: Commander appears justified in fatally shooting driver

Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said Monday that he thinks a commander and an officer were justified in fatally shooting a driver over the weekend — despite new restrictions on cops firing into vehicles.

Ogden District Cmdr. Frank Valadez and the officer were patrolling about 1:30 a.m. Saturday when they saw someone shoot into a vehicle from a Chevrolet Tahoe near 23rd and Wood, police said.

Valadez and the officer chased the Tahoe to 19th and Ashland, police said.

“At one point the car is kind of stopping, and at one point appears they are going to jump out and run,” McCarthy said Monday at a news conference.

“There is video of this,” he said. “Cmdr. Valadez and the other officer get out of the car. The other guy slams his car into reverse and Cmdr. Valadez had to dive back into his own car to keep from getting run over by the vehicle.”

McCarthy said Valadez and the officer then chased the Tahoe into a parking lot.

“They know there is a gun in the car,” he said. “And the windows start to come down. And that’s when they [Valadez and the officer] opened up.”

“Cmdr. Valadez and his partner, a police officer, fired a number of times into the vehicle and unfortunately killed one of the individuals who was driving the vehicle,” McCarthy said.

The fatally wounded driver was Rafael Cruz Jr., 29, of the 1900 block of South Jefferson. He was shot once in the back, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

The Tahoe was moving forward when the officers opened fire, police said. Cruz crashed a short distance away.

No one in the vehicle returned fire, but a handgun was recovered from the vehicle, officials said.

Department policy allows the use of force to prevent death or bodily injury or to prevent an arrest from being defeated by resistance or escape.

But in February, McCarthy revised the department’s policy on the use of deadly force to prohibit officers from “firing at or into a moving vehicle when the vehicle is the only force used against the sworn member or another person.”

McCarthy said he was given an “extensive briefing” on the incident Monday morning.

“On first blush,” he said, “it appears that they followed the policy.”

McCarthy praised Valadez for going on patrol early Saturday in an area of the West Side where previous shootings had occurred.

“That’s leadership,” he said.

No one was wounded by the gunfire at 19th and Wood that prompted the chase, authorities said.

McCarthy, who held Monday’s news conference to call for stronger laws on illegal gun possession, pointed out that the four people in the vehicle that fled from Valadez have been arrested a total of 65 times —including 10 arrests involving gun offenses.

One of the passengers was convicted of murder in 1993 and sentenced to 35 years in prison, court records show. He had served 65 percent of his sentence, McCarthy said.

Another passenger is out on bond for allegedly shooting into a house, McCarthy said.

Charges are pending in Saturday’s incident, a spokesman for the Cook County state’s attorney’s office said.

The men in the Tahoe are examples of a criminal justice system that doesn’t treat illegal gun possession seriously, McCarthy said.

So far this year, about 1,500 people have been charged with illegal gun possession in Chicago, and about 75 percent of them are back on the street, McCarthy said. Twenty people have been arrested twice for illegal gun possession this year, he said.

“This requires all of us —police, prosecutors, judges —but most importantly the community, to get serious about holding gun offenders accountable,” McCarthy said.

He also said a growing proliferation of guns in Chicago is linked to the rising number of shootings and murders this year compared with the same period of 2014.

“It goes hand in hand,” he said. “There’s more guns, and I don’t know why and I don’t know how.”

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