571 dead in Chicago since 2014 from fentanyl, hero officer one of them

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Cook County correctional officer Michael Raines died of an overdose a year after he risked his life to save others. | Facebook

His parents were waiting for him to come home when he got out of a Lake View rehab facility on Oct. 8, 2015. But that’s not where Michael Raines headed.

Instead, Raines, 33, a Cook County correctional officer who’d been commended for heroism while off-duty, headed to the West Side.

He was looking for heroin.

He’d soon be dead of an overdose of fentanyl-laced heroin. He died as he rode a CTA bus in Little Village two hours after walking out of St. Joseph Hospital at Diversey and Sheridan.

Between 2014 and early this year, the highly addictive opioid that street heroin is often spiked with because it’s cheaper and more addictive has been a factor in 571 deaths in Chicago, according to Cook County medical examiner’s office records.

Raines’ was one of them.

He’d started spinning downhill 11 months earlier, his family told the police. It was a result of the incident that got him lauded as a hero — the shooting of a man named Fernando Lopez while Raines was off-duty.

After that, Raines’ parents told detectives, he was wracked by post-traumatic stress. The parents told them it drove Raines — whose father, uncles and cousin all worked in law enforcement — to alcohol and heroin.

Michael Raines was leaving Richard’s Bar when he heard gunfire. | Sam Charles / Sun-Times

Michael Raines was leaving Richard’s Bar when he heard gunfire. | Sam Charles / Sun-Times

Efforts by the Chicago Sun-Times to reach Raines’ parents weren’t successful.

According to police records, on Nov. 30, 2014, Raines and his girlfriend left Richard’s Bar just north of downtown, near the intersection of Milwaukee, Grand and Halsted, around 3 a.m.

Walking out onto Milwaukee Avenue to their car, parked nearby on Union Street, they heard gunshots, records show. Raines told his girlfriend to stay put, and he ran toward the shooting, his Ruger LCP .380 semiautomatic pistol in his back left pants pocket.

A few minutes before, two men the police say were part of a street gang — Fernando “Fern” Lopez and Mario “Booty” Orta, both 27 — had left the Funky Buddha Lounge, just around the corner from Richard’s on Grand Avenue, with friends, according to police records.

Lopez had gotten to the bar around 1:30 a.m. and told detectives he had “three or four shots of Grey Goose vodka while at the club and had smoked marijuana earlier in the evening,” according to police records.

The site of the now-closed Funky Buddha Lounge. | Sam Charles / Sun-Times

The site of the now-closed Funky Buddha Lounge. | Sam Charles / Sun-Times

After leaving the club, Lopez, Orta and another man got into a Buick LaCrosse just outside and began to head west on Grand. But after sideswiping two vehicles, including a BMW parked outside the bar, the driver tried to keep going, according to the police. A crowd outside the Funky Buddha — which closed in 2015 — surrounded the Buick, trying to keep it from driving off, according to police records.

Police said Lopez — who had 10 prior arrests, including one for mob action, though no convictions — was driving. His lawyer later disputed that account in court filings.

Detectives collected surveillance footage of the shooting, detailing what it showed in a police report:

“Upon being approached by the owner of the BMW and others, Lopez, Orta and the unknown male exited the Buick. The unknown male, who was armed with a handgun, fired said handgun into the air. Lopez then took the handgun from the unknown male and chased multiple individuals across the street.”

The police said Lopez fired several times. That’s when Raines came barreling around the corner and confronted him.

Drawing his Ruger and identifying himself as a police officer, Raines ordered Lopez to drop the gun, the detectives wrote. Instead, they said, Lopez turned toward him, and Raines shot him.

Mario “Booty” Orta. | Cook County sheriff’s booking mug

Mario “Booty” Orta. | Cook County sheriff’s booking mug

Wounded, Lopez dropped the weapon and ran to the sidewalk on the north side of Grand. Raines, out of ammunition, ran after and quickly caught him, the police said.

Orta — who had 31 prior arrests and two convictions, for mob action and for aggravated battery to a police officer — picked up Lopez’s gun as the 6-foot, 245-pound Raines tried to hold Lopez on the ground until cops arrived, the detectives wrote.

They said Raines pointed his now-empty gun at Orta, ordering him to drop his gun, and used Lopez as a human shield.

Michael Raines. | Facebook

Michael Raines. | Facebook

The detectives said Orta shot at Raines several times as he and Lopez were on the sidewalk. Raines wasn’t hit, but Lopez ended up with 10 gunshot wounds. Raines’ gun held only six rounds, and he didn’t bring extra ammunition.

Raines later told investigators he held his gun to Lopez’s head “in hopes and in an attempt to discourage the secondary offender and others from killing him.”

He told them that, before the cops got there, several other men walked toward him and that he thought they wanted to help Lopez get away.

Raines’ girlfriend had followed him around the corner. Still on the ground, he shouted for her to run.

Raines said he continued to hold Lopez down until the police got there about five minutes later and that Orta and the other man ran off.

The police said Raines was sober at the time of the shooting.

Lopez, taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, survived.

Raines was taken to Rush University Medical Center with stress-related symptoms, then released.

He’d also aggravated an old back injury suffered years earlier in a car crash, according to a source who said that, during his recovery, Raines was prescribed painkillers. When he couldn’t get a prescription refilled quickly enough, he turned to heroin, the source said.

After the shooting, several people who were with Lopez inside the Funky Buddha drove to Stroger Hospital to see if he was there, according to police records. When nurses told them he wasn’t, they tried Northwestern Memorial, but Lopez’s family “kicked them out.”

Fernando “Fern” Lopez. | Cook County sheriff’s booking mug

Fernando “Fern” Lopez. | Cook County sheriff’s booking mug

One witness told detectives she’d been inside the club with Lopez and Orta, and Lopez had a gun and was showing it off, even dropping it on the floor in front of people around 2 a.m. According to her, Lopez said, “ ‘Anyone can get it,’ and explained she knew that meant shooting someone.”

The woman said Orta told her and another woman “to keep their mouths shut, or something will happen to them.”

At the hospital, detectives questioned Lopez. They said he waived his Miranda rights and told them he didn’t remember firing a gun.

“Lopez could not recall if any of his friends had handguns but stated it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary if they did,” according to police.

They wrote that Lopez told them he was shot from behind but didn’t know who shot him and that he had left the gang five years ago “because he grew out of the lifestyle.”

“The interviewing detectives confronted Lopez with the fact that video surveillance cameras captured the incident, however Lopez denied the detectives summary of events and wanted to see the video himself,” the detectives wrote.

They charged Lopez with aggravated assault to a peace officer, two counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, aggravated discharge of a firearm, reckless discharge of a firearm and unlawful possession of a firearm by a gang member.

Orta — arrested the next day on the West Side, a few blocks from his home —was charged with attempted first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm, unlawful use of a weapon and unlawful possession of a weapon by a gang member.

Both have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial. Lopez is free after being released to a pretrial services monitoring program. Orta is being held without bail at the Cook County Jail.

Nathaniel Nunes. | Illinois Department of Corrections

Nathaniel Nunes. | Illinois Department of Corrections

A third man was later charged in the shooting. Nathaniel Nunes, then 22, was arrested on March 16, 2015, in Humboldt Park, about a mile from Raines’ home in Ukrainian Village, records show.

Nunes, also identified by the police as a member of the gang they said Lopez and Orta belonged to, was charged with reckless discharge of a firearm, unlawful use of a weapon and unlawful possession of a firearm by a gang member. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four years in prison.

An internal Cook County sheriff’s investigation cleared Raines, who had worked at the Cook County Jail for three years, of any wrongdoing.

The sheriff’s office interviewed the lead detective who investigated the shooting, and he commended Raines for heroism.

Raines was reprimanded, though, for using “a handgun that he had not qualified with through the Cook County Sheriff’s Training Institute.”

Despite that, the sheriff’s office heralded his quick response to the shooting:

“Raines’ actions drew the assailants’ attention to him and away from any civilians and prevented any further shots from being fired at the civilians.

“Raines took action at great danger to himself,” the sheriff’s Office of Professional Review wrote, “and even though he had not qualified with the weapon he used in the above incident, his actions prevented an armed offender from continuing to fire his weapon at citizens on the street and resulted in the arrest of said offender.”

After the shooting, Raines developed “emotional issues,” his parents told detectives after his death.

Whether he sought help is unclear. In 2008, the Cook County sheriff’s office created an Office of Peer Support “as an intervention program for officers dealing with both personal and professional crisis.” Records show Peer Support was notified after the shooting, but, citing privacy laws, officials would not say whether Raines had any contact with the office.

Once he started using drugs, he might have faced even more pressure. Alcohol use is ingrained into the culture of law enforcement, according to Steve Albrecht, a workplace safety consultant and former sergeant with the San Diego Police Department, but illicit drug use by officers is far more rare and more difficult to let anyone know about.

“The taboo is towards illegal drugs,” according to Abrecht. “If you got injured in a car accident or you get injured wrestling with some suspect and you become opiate-addicted, I think that’s tolerable in that culture. But illegal drugs — definitely not.”

Albrecht didn’t know Raines. Speaking generally, he said officers involved in shootings can feel “survivor guilt and also anger towards the person that put them in that situation.”

In early September 2015, Raines checked himself in to the rehab facility at St. Joseph.

That Oct. 8, at 11 a.m., he was discharged. At 12:24 p.m., he got on a southbound, No. 53 Pulaski Road bus at Chicago Avenue, according to CTA security footage reviewed by police.

From their report: “At 1225 hours, video shows the victim snorting a substance; he repeated this action four additional times between 1225 and 1228 hours. At 1229 hours, it appeared that the victim was going into distress and at 1230 hours, the victim slumped to his right then laid his head on the bag that he carried on the bus with him.”

When the bus driver got to 31st Street and the end of the route, she noticed Raines toward the back of the bus, slumped over in his seat, and told him he needed to get off, she told police. He didn’t move. She found him unresponsive and called 911.

Michael Raines. | Facebook

Michael Raines. | Facebook

Raines was pronounced dead at 1:21 p.m., according to the medical examiner’s office.

The police found two small plastic bags in one of his pockets —one them empty and the other containing a gram of white heroin.

According to a toxicology report, fentanyl was found in Raines’ blood but not his urine. That’s the case when someone dies shortly after ingesting it, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office said. Raines tested negative for alcohol and cocaine.

In September 2016 — nearly a year after Raines died — Lopez filed suit in federal court against Raines’ estate and the sheriff’s office. He accused Raines of using excessive force and said there was a conspiracy to cover up what he’d done.

In his lawsuit, Lopez says he wasn’t driving the Buick. He says he did have a gun and that he fired it into the air to disperse the crowd that swarmed the SUV after it sideswiped the other vehicles. According to the lawsuit, when Raines shot him, Lopez “was not a threat to Michael Raines nor any other individual on the scene.”

The case hasn’t come to court yet.

From the Cook County Sheriff’s Memorial Foundation website.

From the Cook County Sheriff’s Memorial Foundation website.

UPDATE, JULY 26, 2017: Suspect in River West shooting that led hero cop to OD, death gets 10 years. Newly released video shows the shooting.


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• Chicago’s jailhouse strip club — and feds say they can’t shut it down, June 11, 2017

• For immigrant crime victims, police block path to win special visas, June 4, 2017

• Chicago cops who left under a cloud land police jobs in the suburbs, May 28, 2017

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