'Adorable French bulldog' at center of murder trial involving former Orr Academy basketball star

The pup, named “Chase,” featured prominently in opening statements by prosecutors and the defense on Tuesday because of his outsize role in a fatal shooting three years ago in Pilsen.

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Raekwon Drake (25) when he played at Orr looks to drive the lane against Mount Carmel.

Orr’s Raekwon Drake (25) looks to drive the lane verse Mt. Carmel. Worsom Robinson/ For Sun-Times

Sun-Times file

An “adorable French bulldog” is at the center of a curious murder trial being held this week in a small Cook County courtroom.

The pup, named “Chase,” featured prominently in opening statements by both the prosecutors and the defense on Tuesday because of his outsize role in a fatal shooting three years ago in Pilsen.

Raekwon Drake — a former Orr Academy High School basketball star — is accused of killing 26-year-old Martin Palafox as he allegedly tried to steal the dog from Drake.

Palafox made “a terrible decision” in taking the “adorable French bulldog,” Assistant State’s Attorney Jennifer Cooper told jurors in her opening arguments.

But, she added, that didn’t justify Drake taking matters into his own hands when he “placed a gun against the back of Martin’s head and pulled the trigger.”

Defense attorney Frank Himel countered by telling jurors that Drake and his girlfriend loved the dog “like their child” and were the victims of an armed robbery.

“Drake didn’t make the best decisions in the world, but he is justified in what he did,” Himel said, arguing that his client was defending himself and noting that both Drake and his girlfriend were shot during the incident.

Jurors will be able to see what happened and judge for themselves, according to prosecutors, who said video surveillance cameras captured the shooting.

The video will apparently show Drake out for a walk with his dog in the 1800 block of South Paulina Street on July 10, 2021, when he was approached by Palafox and two other men who had been loitering near a fire hydrant.

Drake took off running with the dog, heading for his nearby apartment, where he left the dog outside as he ran inside to get his gun, prosecutors said.

An upstairs neighbor testified Tuesday that she heard Drake yelling in a worried voice for his girlfriend to “get the dog,” and then saw Drake firing a gun down the street at Palafox, who was holding the dog and running away.

When she looked out the window again, she saw the dog had run back to the apartment, and she went to let it inside as she heard more shooting.

When she got to the downstairs door, she said she saw Drake sitting outside with a gunshot wound. She let him and his girlfriend inside the building before calling 911.

Prosecutors said that Drake fired at Palafox while he was still holding the dog, implying he had placed his dog in jeopardy.

Drake’s girlfriend came out of the home while Drake was firing, caught up to Palafox and punched him several times before Drake also struck Palafox and then shot him, leaving him in the gutter between two parked cars, prosecutors said.

That’s when one of the men who had been with Palafox returned and fired at Drake and his girlfriend, striking them both, prosecutors said.

Himel said that that person who shot Drake and his girlfriend was never identified, telling jurors that police “made zero effort” to find him.

Instead, prosecutors charged Drake “like he’s the one out there looking for trouble,” Himel said.

A previous ruling by the judge barred any mention of Palafox’s alleged gang ties or criminal history.

Two members of Drake’s family were barred from the courtroom on Tuesday after one young man stood during the proceedings and waved at Drake through the thick bulletproof glass that separates the courtroom from the gallery.

The judge warned the man against doing it again but allowed him to stay until the trial broke for lunch. At that time, she ordered deputies to remove him and his brother.

Both men said Drake was their brother and they were there to support him. The brother who waved said he had only wanted his brother to know they were there. The other man said he didn’t understand why he was also kicked out.

Drake was a star basketball player at Orr, where he helped lead the Spartans to Class 2A state basketball championships in 2017 and 2018, the Sun-Times previously reported.

The team’s 2017 season was documented by Rick Telander’s award-winning series ”A season under the gun” for the Sun-Times.

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