A Chicago man allegedly told authorities he opened fire on an unmarked car carrying a police officer and two federal agents early Wednesday because he thought they were “opps” — or rival street gang members — surveilling a neighborhood on the Southwest Side.
McLaurin is charged with one count of using a dangerous and deadly weapon to assault an agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. During a brief court appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Heather McShain, a prosecutor said the feds want McLaurin held in custody as a danger to the community.
A defense attorney for McLaurin waived a detention hearing for the time being, meaning McLaurin will stay in federal custody. Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Pozolo said McLaurin was initially arrested by Chicago police at 8:35 a.m. Wednesday, and he was transferred to federal custody at 11:03 a.m. Thursday.
The shooting happened just before 6 a.m. Wednesday as the officer and two ATF agents were getting onto the northbound lanes of Interstate 57 near 119th Street, about a mile from the Morgan Park police station, authorities said.
The police officer was grazed in the back of the head, one ATF agent was shot in the hand, and another ATF agent suffered a wound to his side, police said. All were taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center and have been released.
Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th) made an appeal to Biden after the shooting, saying, “We’re at a critical point in the city of Chicago. We need help. Police can’t do it alone.” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden had expressed his personal support for the officer and agents during a meeting with Mayor Lori Lightfoot on the tarmac at O’Hare Airport.
McLaurin is a convicted felon who was previously sentenced to five years in prison in 2015 for illegal gun possession and delivery of methamphetamine, and one year in prison in 2013 for illegal gun possession, court records show.
A seven-page criminal complaint filed Thursday against McLaurin says the officer and agents were working on an undercover investigation near the 400 block of West 118th Street around 5:45 a.m. Then, a white Chevrolet Malibu began to follow an unmarked Chrysler 300 in which the officer and two agents were riding.
The complaint identifies the Chicago police officer as an ATF task force officer.
The Malibu followed the Chrysler as it traveled west on 119th, according to the complaint. At one point, it said the Malibu pulled ahead of the Chrysler, parked, then began to follow the Chrysler again after it drove by.
The Chrysler turned north on Ashland to get onto I-57, and the officers inside the Chrysler took down the Malibu’s license plate number. Then, when the Chrysler reached the I-57 on-ramp, the officers inside saw the Malibu on Ashland Avenue.
That’s when the driver’s side window of the Malibu rolled down, and a Black male with a “twist hair style” pointed a black handgun at the officers and opened fire, according to the complaint.
Authorities later tracked the Malibu to a house in the 200 block of East 89th Street, according to the complaint. There, officers found two Hornady 9mm shell casings on the driver’s side of car. Three such casings were also found at the scene of the shooting, according to the complaint.
A Chicago police officer also saw someone with a hairstyle matching the shooter’s in the backyard of a house next door to where the Malibu was parked, authorities said. Officers knocked on the door at 7:15 a.m., and McLaurin eventually stepped out.
McLaurin was sweaty and “visibly nervous,” according to the complaint. He allegedly told authorities he had been with his girlfriend that morning and had just been dropped off. An ATF agent took his picture and texted it to one of the victims of the shooting, authorities said. The victim allegedly said McLaurin’s hair matched the shooter’s but couldn’t say definitively it was him.
However, authorities arrested McLaurin and questioned him at a police station, according to the complaint. There, McLaurin allegedly admitted he was driving the Malibu near 118th Street and Normal Avenue early Wednesday, and that he began following the Chrysler.
McLaurin allegedly explained that a friend told him Tuesday that a white Chrysler 300 had been seen surveilling the area, and he thought the car he found was being driven by “opps” — or members of a rival street gang.
The feds say McLaurin admitted opening fire on the Chrysler with a Glock 9mm that he had purchased for personal protection a few months earlier, and he said he later dropped the gun into a drain.
Authorities said they found a key to the Malibu in a dryer vent tube during a search of the home where McLaurin was found.
Contributing: Lynn Sweet