THE WATCHDOGS: Insecurity at Soldier Field exposed risks — judge
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Security was on heightened alert as 62,483 fans packed Soldier Field to see the Bears play the Denver Broncos last Nov. 22 — nine days after a series of deadly terrorist attacks in Paris claimed 130 lives.
At the stadium gates, the Chicago Police Department made two arrests that a Cook County judge now says exposed “the possibility of a massive tragedy.”
The incident involved three undercover police officers deployed to prevent potential “homeland security issues” and two employees of Monterrey Security Consultants Inc., the clout-heavy security company that guards Soldier Field.
Judge Anthony John Calabrese’s comments last week came as he acquitted one of the two Monterrey Security employees accused of being involved in a scheme to sell access to the stadium to the plainclothes cops, saying there was insufficient evidence against him.
But the other employee of the Chicago security company in the case didn’t show up in court, and authorities have now issued a warrant for his arrest. Prosecutors say Isaac Williams, 19, of Chicago, offered to sell the undercover cops three neon-green security wristbands to get into the game for a total of $80.
Beyond the misdemeanor criminal cases, the arrests at the Bears game raise questions about stadium safety and put a spotlight on Monterrey Security, a prominent security firm at most major venues in Chicago.
Owned by Juan Gaytan, a former Chicago cop, Monterrey Security handles crowd security at Wrigley Field, Toyota Park in Bridgeview and Rosemont’s Allstate Arena. It also has provided security for the Lincoln Park Zoo, Walmart stores, Wintrust Bank, the Shedd Aquarium and the Chicago Marathon.
Neither of the employees arrested at Soldier Field in November had a security guard license from the state. Both had records for drug arrests. One had gone to prison for selling drugs.
Gaytan says the two men didn’t need to be licensed as security guards because they — like many of his employees — instead provide what his company calls “guest services.” About two-thirds of his employees assigned to Soldier Field for any given event are licensed guards or off-duty police officers, but the rest don’t have security-guard licenses, according to Gaytan.
Gaytan says Monterrey Security — which he says has yearly revenues of $29 million — tries to offer opportunities in such positions to people from disadvantaged communities, including ex-convicts.
A spokeswoman for the Chicago Park District, which owns the lakefront stadium, declined to comment, referring questions to SMG, the company that has managed Soldier Field since 1994.
In 2013, SMG won a 10-year deal to manage Soldier Field and two smaller park district venues. Monterrey’s subcontract with SMG will pay the company more than $2.6 million, records show.
Tim LeFevour, who is general manager of Soldier Field for SMG, says Monterrey Security supervisors stopped the undercover cops before they made it inside the stadium at the Bears game, despite sworn testimony from the police officers that they were allowed through a gate.
“There are some terrific people at Monterrey who did their job that day,” LeFevour says.
He says the two Monterrey Security employees who were arrested had been “entrusted with additional wristbands to assist in identifying employees as they arrived for work” at the stadium on game day.
After the arrests, LeFevour says, “All wristbands were taken away from guest relations employees — and, for the remainder of the year, Monterrey supervisors were the only ones allowed to give out a wristband.”
Here’s what police and prosecutors say happened on Nov. 22 at Soldier Field:
At about 2 p.m., the three officers were walking near the south end of the stadium as part of the ramped-up measures taken in response to the deadly Nov. 13 attacks in Paris.
“We were assigned to a covert, undercover mission regarding homeland security issues,” George Gass of the CPD’s intelligence unit told the judge last week.
Gass testified that the officers were looking to thwart any “major incidents, if they occurred,” including the possibility there might be an “active shooter.”
Williams — who was dressed in a red Monterrey Security windbreaker — approached the officers and “said $80 will get you in to the game,” according to Gass. Williams then gave the cops three plastic wristbands, which stadium vendors’ employees are given on game days, and directed them to enter through Gate 3.
While Williams waited near the entrance to the stadium, Gass said, another Monterrey Security employee, David L. Glover, told co-workers, “They’re OK. Let them in.”
Gass said that, after entering the stadium, he and the other officers revealed they were cops and arrested Glover and Williams, who were charged with theft of labor / services.
Calabrese, who issued the verdict in Glover’s bench trial, said the incident might seem like a small-stakes case, given that so little money was involved. But the judge recalled the suicide bomber who was kept from entering the Stade de France during an international soccer game while the other terrorist attacks raged across Paris last year.
“The possibility of a massive tragedy is not lost upon the court,” Calabrese said from the bench at the branch Cook County courthouse at Belmont and Western. “By giving these wristbands or selling those bands to any individual for profit, it allows any dangerous individual to gain access and puts the citizens of this community at danger, and it has to be viewed in the context of this dangerous world.”
Calabrese said he heard enough evidence at Glover’s trial to prove Williams’ guilt but that he found Glover “not guilty” because the state’s attorney’s office failed to show Glover conspired with Williams.
A spokeswoman for State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez declined to comment.
After his acquittal, Glover, 34, thanked his public defender and said, “I didn’t have nothing to do with this at all. This was crazy. I lost my job because of this. And I lost my apartment because I lost my job.”
Cook County court records show Glover’s arrest at Soldier Field in November was the ninth time he has been charged with a crime in 16 years, including busts for selling heroin and cocaine on the West Side. He also was convicted of felony possession of a stolen motor vehicle in Lansing in 2001 and sentenced to a year in state prison in 2004 after a felony conviction for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, records show.
Williams was arrested last June 14, after officers said they observed him in what they “believed to be a hand-to-hand transaction,” court records show. The cops who arrested him found he had failed to appear in court on a prior charge of possession of cannabis. According to their police report, Williams was a “documented Black P-Stone gang member.”
Gaytan, the Monterrey Security owner, says both Glover and Williams have been fired and that he plans to continue hiring ex-convicts for guest services jobs such as theirs.
“We are giving people second chances and going in to communities that are being disenfranchised,” Gaytan says.
He started the company with Santiago Solis, brother of 25th Ward Ald. Danny Solis, as his business partner. Gaytan bought out his partner in 2008 and became sole owner.
Monterrey Security landed its first deal to provide security at Soldier Field while it was being renovated in 2002, despite having been fined and put on probation by state regulators for infractions that included operating without a license and employing an armed guard who wasn’t licensed to use a firearm.
Before Monterrey Security landed the Soldier Field deal, city officials had yanked a $2.9 million contract to guard salt piles and equipment from the company because Gaytan and Santiago Solis were city employees at the time, so they were barred from doing business with the city.
Monterrey Security and Gaytan have been frequent contributors to a host of politicians, having given a total of more than $140,000, according to campaign-finance records.