Man in ‘peacekeepers’ vest charged with robbing, beating man in Little Village

Police said Oscar Montes and another man were seen on a police surveillance camera striking a man seated in a car late Friday in the 2300 block of South Washtenaw Avenue.

SHARE Man in ‘peacekeepers’ vest charged with robbing, beating man in Little Village
The George N. Leighton Criminal Courthouse.

The George N. Leighton Criminal Courthouse.

Sun-Times file

A man in a neon “peacekeepers” vest beat up and robbed a man in Little Village on Friday night, police said, as dozens of violence prevention workers fanned out across Chicago over the Memorial Day weekend.

Oscar Montes, 31, was in a group of seven or eight people that pulled a man from a car and punched and kicked him on the ground in the 2300 block of South Washtenaw Avenue, Cook County prosecutors said in a Sunday bond hearing.

Montes took the man’s cellphone and struck him over the head with it, and another person stole the man’s wallet, prosecutors said.

The man’s face and ribs were fractured, and his eye was damaged to the point that he suffered partial blindness, prosecutors said.

Officers watching the attack on video from a police surveillance camera dispatched officers who were nearby tending a large crowd, prosecutors said. Montes was allegedly seen by officers throwing the stolen cellphone in the street as he left.

When officers arrived, they saw Montes walking away and trying to take off a neon vest that read “peacekeepers,” according to a police report. No one in court Sunday mentioned a peacekeepers vest or a connection to an anti-violence organization.

It’s unclear which violence prevention organization, if any, Montes was working for.

A spokeswoman for Enlace, the violence prevention group that provides peacekeepers in Little Village, said the group would provide a statement but it had not by Sunday afternoon.

Montes was held on no bail by Judge Maryam Ahmad on charges of aggravated battery, robbery and vehicular invasion.

Montes’ assistant public defender questioned how well police could have identified him in the dark during the time of the attack, at 11:15 p.m. But the judge said she was familiar with the area, and how well-lighted the street is below the police surveillance camera where the attack occurred.

He was released from an Illinois prison last May following an aggravated discharge of a firearm conviction. In that case, from 2012, prosecutors charged him with attempted murder. But Montes accepted a plea deal of 12 years in prison for just the discharge charge.

More than 500 people have been hired as peacekeepers, trained to de-escalate violence in Chicago as part of a state-funded, $11 million anti-violence program. The peacekeepers belong to more than a dozen community violence prevention groups.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker authorized funding the anti-violence strategy in 2021 when he signed the Reimagine Public Safety Act, creating the state Office of Firearm Violence Prevention. Funding for the program is expected to rise to $30 million next year.

Most participants in the peacekeepers program are not full-time outreach workers with salaries. They’re recruited in violent neighborhoods and get a $100 daily stipend. Some in the program still have connections in the gang world.

Peacekeepers and people involved in anti-violence programs are sometimes targets of violence. Two peacekeepers were wounded — one shot, one stabbed — between February and April this year, according to a study by the Center for Neighborhood Engaged Research & Science.

Earlier in May, a participant of the violence prevention group CRED was fatally shot while walking in the parking lot of its Roseland outreach center.

Contributing: Frank Main, Andy Grimm, Tom Schuba

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