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Gangbanger who tried to kill informant praises ‘heroic’ cops

Toby Jones, convicted of trying to kill an informant, looks at a gun he considered buying from an undercover federal agent, who took the photo with a hidden recording device in early 2014.

Toby Jones is a convicted drug trafficker who tried to gun down a federal informant.

He grew up on the West Side, in a world ruled by gangs. He was once arrested by a corrupt Chicago cop who was ultimately imprisoned. And last week, the 38-year-old was ordered to spend 40 years in federal prison.

But before he learned his fate, the Four Corner Hustler known as Big Red wondered aloud to a judge whether law enforcement in Chicago is truly all bad.

His answer was no.

“Even with all the latest police shootings on minorities in Chicago, I don’t blame these cops one bit for most of their decisions in the field,” Jones said. “And the black community has to first come to grips with why these cops are so afraid.

“I know why. Because it’s really a war zone out there. ‘Chiraq’ is what these youngsters call it now. And just as these officers have actually served time on the battlefield in Iraq, their main focus is to make it home. And that’s all these officers want to do in the mean streets of ‘Chiraq,’ is make it home. They just want to make it home to their wife, their kids, their mothers.”

Toby Jones | Mugshot
Toby Jones | Mugshot

Jones made his comments at a time of escalating tension between police and the neighborhoods they patrol. Convicted in January of drug trafficking, gun possession and trying to kill a federal informant, Jones took responsibility for the events that landed him in front of U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve for sentencing.

“I know that I’m a bad person,” he said.

He heaped praise on his prosecutors as well as a federal agent. He said of the agent, “this dude is like Robocop” and apologized to him because someone else — a robber — once pointed a gun in the agent’s face.

“These are the stories of these heroic officers that go untold,” Jones said. “But as soon as a black kid gets shot, everyone is in an uproar.”

Jones derided the term “Chiraq,” saying it’s used by teens who don’t understand the gravity of their words.

“It’s such a stupid thing for these kids to compare this great city to an actual war zone where soldiers have lost their lives fighting for this great country,” Jones said.

“But on the flip side, I don’t think no one is trying to teach them the importance of it.”

Finally, he said the “days when gang leaders actually did have control over these youngsters are long gone — are long gone.”

“Now this is the new Chicago, aka ‘Chiraq,’ where these kids listen [to] no one but themselves,” Jones said.

The words came from a man who first saw drugs dealt by his father — “in my eyes, my father was my hero and he couldn’t do no wrong.”

Jones said he was once arrested by Officer Edward Lee “Pacman” Jackson Jr., the convicted leader of the crooked cops known as the Austin 7. Prosecutors accused Jackson of working with some of the city’s most infamous gang leaders to rob drug dealers.

Jones’ arrest by Jackson led to a 1994 gun conviction, Jones said.

Twenty years later, in early 2014, an undercover agent for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives posed as a firearms dealer. He did business with Jones through a 38-year-old informant acting as a middleman in Jones’ crack cocaine and heroin ring.

The informant set up a deal in which Jones agreed to exchange crack cocaine and $450 cash for two handguns. Jones allegedly sent an 18-year-old underling to pick up the guns.

When the underling and a pal were arrested, Jones smelled a rat and set out to kill the informant, whom he disparagingly referred to as a “fed,” authorities say.

Associates of Toby Jones were arrested in 2014 after meeting an undercover federal agent to buy handguns. Jones wanted the two guns on the right, a Glock and a Beretta, officials say.
Associates of Toby Jones were arrested in 2014 after meeting an undercover federal agent to buy handguns. Jones wanted the two guns on the right, a Glock and a Beretta, officials say.

On March 27, 2014, Jones went to a home in Oak Park where he mistakenly thought the informant lived. Around midnight, he knocked loudly on the door, authorities say.

Kensha Barlow, a man who lived in the apartment, looked through the peephole, but Jones was blocking it with his finger, authorities say. When Jones removed his finger, Barlow saw Jones and another man. But he didn’t know either one of them.

Jones yelled, “It’s me, open the f—— door!” and Barlow responded, “Wrong door!”

Jones pulled out a .40-caliber handgun and fired three shots through the door, wounding Barlow in the right thigh, authorities say.

Barlow identified Jones as the shooter after viewing a photo lineup.

At his sentencing hearing, Jones insisted he didn’t shoot Barlow.

During Jones’ trial, St. Eve took the unusual step of visiting the Oak Park apartment on North Austin Boulevard to peer through the peephole.

Jones’ defense attorney had argued Barlow couldn’t have identified his assailants through the peephole, but St. Eve ruled that she could clearly see people on the other side of the door.

After Jones realized he shot the wrong man, he set out to finish the job of killing the informant, authorities say.

On April 2, 2014, Jones’ brother, Kelsey Jones, and an accomplice caught up with the informant in the parking lot of the same Oak Park building where Barlow was shot.

Kelsey Jones got out of a red van with a 9mm handgun and fired at least three shots into a Jeep the informant was driving, hitting him in the shoulder and grazing the informant’s brother in the head. Amazingly, they survived.

Bullet casings from the shooting were linked to the 2013 murder of 22-year-old Reginald Jackson in the West Garfield Park neighborhood. No one is charged in Jackson’s death.

The Chicago police and ATF, which analyzed the casings through the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, are investigating if the same gun was used in other murders, said Tom Ahern, an ATF spokesman. The gun hasn’t been recovered.

After the informant was shot, Toby Jones went into hiding, prompting a manhunt. He was arrested on April 20, 2014.

Jones’ 18-year-old underling, Wesley Fields, is now 21 and received a 14-year prison term. Jones’ brother Kelsey and Mario Whitfield, who drove the getaway car after the informant was shot, are awaiting sentencing.

Federal prosecutors sought a hefty prison sentence for Jones because of his drug and gun convictions — and his attempts to kill a federal informant.

“It is difficult to capture in words the gravity of attempting to murder a federal witness,” prosecutors wrote in a May 1 court filing that recommended a prison term of at least 40 years for Jones.

At least four federal informants have been killed in the Chicago area since 2006. Paris Poe of the Hobos street gang is awaiting trial after he allegedly killed two informants, one in front of the victim’s three kids.

Such violence is why, moments before St. Eve sentenced him to 40 years behind bars, Jones turned to his fiancée and said, “Chicago is a very bad place.”

Jones told his fiancée to take his son with her to Atlanta. Then, he directed his comments toward his son:

“You have a son yourself now. Look at your dad. I let you down. Don’t let him down.”

“I will probably spend the rest of my life in prison.”

“Son, get out.”

U.S. vs. Jones 5-16-16