Lawyers for accused cop killers want to question former CPD Superintendent Garry McCarthy

Lawyers for three men charged in the decade-old murder of a Chicago police officer want to put former CPD Supt. Garry McCarthy on the witness stand to answer questions about the monthslong dragnet that led to the trio’s arrests.

A trove of 35,000 pages of emails recently turned over to attorneys for alleged gunman Alexander Villa show that CPD launched a multi-agency investigation in the months after Officer Clifton Lewis was killed in the robbery of an Austin store in December 2011.

"Operation Snake Doctor" started after police had arrested Villa’s co-defendants, Tyrone Clay and Edgardo Colon. By the time Villa was arrested more than a year later, Snake Doctor had led to more than 100 arrests of Villa’s fellow Spanish Cobra gang members. But records of the operation were kept separate from files turned over to defense lawyers, said Villa’s lawyer, Jennifer Blagg.

Blagg last week filed a motion calling for a new trial based on the missing information. Villa was found guilty in 2019, but his attorneys learned about the multi-agency operation only after requesting emails that included keywords on the case, Blagg said.


"It’s not surprising that they would pull out all the stops to find someone who killed a cop," Blagg said. "What is surprising is that they didn’t put any information about this massive investigation into the files they shared with the defense."

No information about Operation Snake Doctor was included in files turned over to lawyers for the three men charged with Lewis’ murder, said Clay’s lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Marijane Placek.

In one message sent to hundreds of CPD personnel after charges were filed against Clay and Colon, McCarthy congratulates his subordinates for their hard work, but closes with a statement about "rumors" circulating around the case.

"Finally, let me take this opportunity to dispel rumors that have circulated," McCarthy wrote on Jan. 7, 2012, the day Clay and Colon were charged. "This was a robbery committed by heartless criminals, who took the life of a guardian who stood in their way."

Said Placek: "Well, what were the rumors? That’s what I want to ask him." Placek has subpoenaed the former chief to testify Friday.

Snake Doctor explicitly targeted Villa, as well as his fellow Spanish Cobras, said Blagg, citing a 2012 memo.

"Due to the involvement of the Spanish Cobras street gang in this murder, an all out effort has been initiated against this gang for the purpose of generating witnesses or others who may have information that may lead to the arrest and conviction of the last offender," reads a January 2012 memo from 25th District Commander Carlos Velez to his supervisor.

The "last offender" was Villa, Blagg said. Clay and Colon were arrested a week after the murder. Villa wasn’t arrested until 2013.

"This was an all-out effort to get Alexander Villa, because he wouldn’t give a false confession and they had to let him go," Blagg said. "Then they spent 18 months trying to find anyone that would say he was involved."