A man profiled in the Chicago Sun-Times after he finished a new federal treatment program for veterans allegedly broke into an empty suburban home last week carrying two loaded firearms, extra ammunition and a knife, authorities say.
Juan Morales, 33, of Aurora was charged Dec. 13 with armed violence, residential burglary and burglary in Will County, records show. A judge there set his bail at $2 million, and records show he remains in the county jail.
However, Morales’ sister said, “what is being alleged is totally out of character for Juan.”
Morales told the Sun-Times he served in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. The decorated veteran said he found himself in battle in Afghanistan nearly every day for four months and eventually became a team leader. But he said he came home with the “knee of a 70-year-old” and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Morales said he landed in the Northern District of Illinois’ Veterans Treatment Court after he was caught last spring on the grounds of Edward Hines Jr. Veterans Administration Hospital with a knife he forgot to leave at home.
The veterans court aims to help vets charged with federal misdemeanors get help for PTSD, anger management, mental health issues and drug and alcohol addiction. Prosecution is dropped for veterans who successfully complete treatment and commit no new offenses. Morales was among the program’s first six graduates.
“They got me in touch with the right people,” Morales told the Sun-Times before his graduation on Dec. 4.
Plainfield Police Sgt. Kevin McQuaid said officers were then called to the 24200 block of Partridge Drive around 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 12 —a little more than a week after Morales’ graduation. A witness noticed a man pounding on the front door of a home there and saw him pick up a brick and walk to the back of the house, McQuaid said.
Officers noticed a broken window when they arrived and could hear someone inside, according to McQuaid. The officers surrounded the home, and the man eventually followed commands to leave the house. That’s when they said they identified him as Morales.
Police searched the man and found a knife, ammunition and two handguns, along with property from inside the home, police said. Court records show Morales was armed with a Glock 9 mm and a Smith & Wesson .38 special.
However, McQuaid said officers also found a third gun, and more ammunition, in Morales’ nearby Jeep Grand Cherokee. In all, McQuaid said officers found “over 1,000 rounds” of ammunition.
McQuaid also said the burglarized home was empty when Morales allegedly broke in.
Morales’ sister, Graciela, said in a statement that, “the Juan that we know is a warrior who would have given his life for his country, and who as a civilian would give the shirt off his back.”
“It saddens us that Juan came back from fighting the enemy in Afghanistan only to fight a new battle against the wounds of war, both physical and mental,” she said. “He is being treated for PTSD and has recently started screening for (traumatic brain injury). We ask for your prayers and understanding in this time of tribulation for Juan, and ask for forgiveness for any hardship he may have caused.”