Prosecutors: 25 shots from assault rifle tore through CPD van

SUN-TIMES MEDIA WIRE - A reputed gang member sprayed a police van with more than two-dozen rounds from an assault rifle last week after mistaking the unmarked vehicle and plainclothes officers inside for rival gang members, Cook County prosecutors said Monday.

The pair of officers had been following suspected gang members riding the Nissan Murano on the city’s Southwest Side for a few blocks Tuesday before giving up their chase as they headed back to the 9th District headquarters, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

Then, the gang members, thinking the plainclothes cops in an unmarked van were in a rival gang, decided to tail the cops, prosecutors said at a bond hearing for Angel Gomez – the alleged driver in the incident.

A Chevrolet Trailblazer pulled up alongside the van on Ashland near 47th Street, and the men inside stared the officers down, prosecutors said.

As the police turned onto 43rd Street, a stolen Town & Country mini-van followed them, pulling up next to the van’s driver’s side, prosecutors said.

A man in the passenger seat opened fire with a .223-caliber “assault rifle,” said Assistant State’s Attorney Jim Murphy.

The gunman fired a few shots out the passenger seat window, then climbed into the rear of the minivan and slid open the side door to “get a better angle on the officers’ van,” Murphy said.

“Twenty-five shots were fired into the van from a matter of feet,” Murphy said. “Bullets ripped through the van, spraying shrapnel all over both officers.”

One officer, 26, was struck in the hip, arm and side. The second, 38, suffered lacerations to his upper back from gunshots.

Gomez, who was arrested Friday, was ordered held without bail on two counts each of attempted first-degree murder and aggravated battery with a firearm.

Murphy said Gomez, 18, kept pace with the officers’ van even as the police van slowed and fuel drained out of Gomez’s bullet-riddled gas tank.

The two officers fired back through the front windshield, striking the tires and trunk of the minivan. With the tires flattened, Gomez lost control of the minivan, but managed to drive to an area near 37th and Morgan, where he and the gunman ditched it, Murphy said.

The shooter buried the rifle in a lot near some railroad tracks, Murphy said. The wounded police officers radioed for help, drawing squad cars— and the curious passengers of the Murano— to the intersection of 43rd and Ashland.

The two officers pointed out the Murano, which was stopped by fellow officers. The Trailblazer was spotted nearby and the passengers detained, Murphy said. A witness identified Gomez as the driver of the Town & Country minivan, and police surveillance cameras captured the shooting on video, Murphy said.

A surveillance camera at a gas station showed the shooter paying for gas for the minivan 15 minutes before the shootout, prosecutor said.

The officers had begun following the Murano and the minivan around 9 p.m. while investigating a gang shooting that occurred earlier near Halsted and Archer.

The crew in the Murano and the minivan spotted the van, and assumed they were being followed by rival gang members.

Police reports indicate Gomez said he was a member of La Raza street gang.