Gunman Who Killed Off-Duty Chicago Police Officer Shot ‘First Hispanic Man’ He Saw After Petty Dispute, Top Cop Says

Jeremy Gorner, Megan Crepeau, and Hannah Leone, Chicago Tribune, March 26, 2019

The suspected gunman in the weekend killing of an off-duty Chicago police officer opened fire on “the first Hispanic man” he saw after a petty dispute with a group of Latinos about an hour earlier, said Superintendent Eddie Johnson, who called the shooting a hate crime.

At a news conference Monday, Johnson said the “nightmare” began about 2:25 a.m. Saturday in the River North neighborhood when Menelik Jackson got into a confrontation in the 600 block of North Clark Street with some Hispanic men on a party bus.

Jackson returned later with a gun, but the men were no longer there, Johnson said.

The superintendent told reporters that Jackson opened fire into a parked car about 3:25 a.m. a block from the initial confrontation, fatally shooting off-duty Chicago police Officer John P. Rivera, 23, and critically wounding the officer’s friend, 23.

Jackson, 24, of South Holland, and co-defendant Jovan Battle, 32, of Chicago, were each charged with one count of murder and three counts of attempted murder.

{snip} Johnson told reporters that the department would pursue possible hate crime charges against Jackson, who is black, for the alleged targeting of Rivera. {snip}

At a bond hearing at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr. ordered that Jackson and Battle be held without bond, saying they posed a threat to the surviving victims “and every other human being on the planet that they come into contact with.”

{snip}

Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said the early Saturday confrontation outside a McDonald’s with the men from a party bus escalated after a third suspect yet to be arrested was punched in the face.

The fight — caught on surveillance cameras — broke up when police arrived on the scene. Jackson and the third suspect left the area, while the group of Latinos boarded the party bus or walked away from the scene, the prosecutor said.

By about 3:20 a.m., Battle had met up with Jackson and the third individual in an apparent effort to track down the Latinos, according to Murphy.

“Where they at?” Murphy quoted Jackson as asking Battle. “Is that them?”

Battle, wielding a bottle, pointed it directly at Rivera’s car multiple times, Murphy said. All three suspects approached the car, according to the prosecutor.

Surveillance video “clearly” shows Jackson pull out a handgun and aim directly at the driver’s window a few feet away, Murphy said.

“Let’s blow this bitch up,” Battle shouted just before gunshots rang out, according to the prosecutor and the charges.

Rivera moved to shield a woman in the front passenger seat before he was shot in the face, the back and shoulder, according to Murphy. Jackson continued to fire, hitting Rivera’s friend in the shoulder and chest as he sat in the back seat behind Rivera, the prosecutor said. A bullet lodged in his neck, but he is expected to survive.

Murphy said Rivera and his friends had nothing to do with the earlier altercation.

{snip}

Battle was arrested shortly after the shooting while wearing the same Pelle Pelle-brand jacket and red hoodie described by one of the surviving victims, prosecutors said.

Jackson was arrested about 8:15 a.m. Sunday after police set up surveillance on his car in the 5400 block of South Kenwood Avenue, according to an arrest report. When Jackson appeared walking his dog, officers moved in to arrest him, but he took off running, police said. After a short foot chase, he was taken into custody as he tried to step into an elevator in a building, said police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

{snip}

Jackson was on probation at the time of his arrest for an attempted residential burglary conviction, court records show. He also pleaded guilty last year to two domestic violence-related misdemeanor charges.

Battle’s criminal history is far lengthier and includes convictions for felony cannabis and cocaine offenses as well as misdemeanor battery and assault charges, according to the records. A police report from Battle’s trespassing arrest in January listed his residence as a South Side homeless shelter.

{snip}

Battle told authorities that he was a “good Samaritan” who wanted to help out his fellow Gangster Disciples after they had been jumped earlier, Murphy said.

{snip}

Jackson’s arrest report, however, said he has no gang affiliation.

{snip}

At his news conference at police headquarters, Johnson said that he was especially outraged that Jackson had applied in recent years to become a Chicago police officer. He was disqualified, however, after he was arrested in July 2017 on a domestic violence-related charge on the same day he was scheduled to undergo a polygraph test at the Chicago Police Academy.

{snip}

In that July 2017 incident, Jackson broke into the ex-girlfriend’s residence through a side window, pointed a gun to her head and threatened to kill her, according to court records. Jackson later pleaded guilty to attempted residential burglary and was given probation.

{snip}

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