CHICAGO, IL – Chicago Police Department officers on patrol in an area known for retail thefts noticed a vehicle they thought was odd.
Upon investigation, they learned the driver of that vehicle was a four-time convicted felon…and say he had guns in his possession.
Officers with the Chicago Police Department have been actively patrolling the local streets and businesses along Oak Street due to an increase in retail thefts in the area.
While on patrol, Chicago Police officers noticed a vehicle that was parked in front of a fire hydrant with its flashers on.
This of course caught their attention. That’s because not only was the car parked in front of a fire hydrant, but it was in an area close enough to provide a quick getaway for someone who may have been stealing something from the retail stores.
Officers noted the vehicle was not occupied and they stood by in the area to see if anyone came to it to determine if they might be committing thefts in the area.
On posh Oak Street, police spotted an illegally parked car that looked a lot like a vehicle used in recent shoplifting mob incidents. Their curiosity led them to a four-time convicted gun offender — and two guns, prosecutors say.https://t.co/K6DXRqpxTd
— CWBChicago (@CWBChicago) December 28, 2021
While watching the car, Chicago police officers observed two people approaching it, a male, and a female.
The male, according to the Cook County District Attorney’s Office, was carrying a satchel which they allegedly observed him throwing into the backseat of the car as he entered the driver’s seat.
Officers moved in before the driver could get out of the area and stopped them for the parking infraction and to investigate the suspicious activity.
As officers approached the vehicle, they noted that the tint was too dark to safely see inside and opened the back door so that they could ensure officer safety, according to Cook County Assistant State Attorney Loukas Kalliantasis.
As officers were conducting their stop and investigation, a Chicago police officer noted that the satchel that was in the backseat appeared to be bulky, which, according to his training and experience as a law enforcement officer, was typical of one that had firearms inside.
Officers were able to search the bag and located two handguns inside, one was a loaded .45 with an extended magazine and a loaded .9 millimeter.
Officers conducted a check on the suspect, identified as 29-year-old Austin Collins, and learned that he was a four-time convicted felon.
Additionally, he was currently out on bond for another pending armed habitual criminal case that he was arrested for while out on parole for being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Collins’ criminal convictions involve weapons and violence charges, including unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, aggravated battery by discharging a firearm, aggravated robbery, and two juvenile adjudications for burglary while a juvenile.
The District Attorney requested that Collins be held on no bond due to his criminal history and proven propensity to violent armed acts, however, Cook County Judge Susana Ortiz disagreed and assigned a $350,000 bond and electronic monitoring upon release.
However, Ortiz did order Collins held in custody until the judge overseeing his most recent case can review all of the facts and circumstances for the new law violation and determine if he should be remanded in custody or released.
There was no time frame announced as to when the judge will be able to review the new case.
@KimFoxx will just let him go no worries
— jguz (@jeremyguz) December 28, 2021
Collins’ private attorney argued that he is innocent and should not be held in custody for any criminal acts.
The attorney claimed that the only thing he could possibly be guilty of was being a gentleman for carrying the bag of the woman that he was with…which somehow mysteriously must have generated the two guns inside after the threw it in the backseat.
Instead of a fair judgment in the case, the judge sentenced him to three years of probation and community service…for murder.
The unbelievable sentence was passed down to a defendant who the Cook County Circuit Judge Steven Bernstein ordered cannot be named, even though he is now a convicted murderer.
Bernstein sentenced the murderer to a total of three years of probation and 100 hours of community service for taking a life.
Elizabeth Valdez, the sister of the 15-year-old victim, Elias Valdez, spoke about the prison sentence. She said:
“If it was the other way around, if my brother had killed him, my brother would have gone to prison for a lot of years. We just think it’s racist. He should be in jail. We’ve been struggling a lot.”
The Cook County State Attorneys’ office spoke about the sentence and said that it was handed down by Bernstein because he accepted a plea deal for second-degree murder.
They also noted that since the murderer was charged only as a juvenile, Bernstein could have sentenced him to anything from probation to an “indeterminate commitment to the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice.”
According to homicide detectives, Valdez and the murderer knew each other as they went to the same school, Glenbrook South High. Valdez contacted the murderer in an attempt to purchase marijuana from him.
Instead of paying for the marijuana that he purchased from the murderer, Valdez instead took the drugs and ran.
The murderer chased Valdez down and the two began physically fighting before the murderer pulled out a utility tool with a sharp blade and began stabbing Valdez and then ran from the scene.
Valdez was found on a parkway in the 1200 block of Greenwood Road with stab wounds to his chest. Paramedics responded to the scene and transported him to the Advocate Lutheran General Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.
The murderer turned himself in to police the following day and was taken into custody for the murder. The murderer’s attorney, David Kerstien, tried to argue that his client was nothing more than a kid who was a “ninety-seven-pound weakling.” Kerstien said:
“My guy [the murderer] was being body slammed into the concrete at least six to eight times. Ultimately he was able to extricate this tool type thing, kind of a utility type instrument. It was like a one out of a million shot this would kill him but it did.”
Elizabeth and her family were disgusted not only by the verdict but the charge that was levied against the murderer upon his initial arrest.
The family wanted the murderer held without bond and charged with first-degree murder, however, were shocked when he was released on home detention while the court case made its way through the system.
Some argue the second-degree murder charge would be more appropriate, considering first-degree murder in most states requires there to be some type of intent behind the attack that killed the person.
By Illinois State law, for it to be first-degree murder, the suspect would have had to intend to kill Elias.
Prosecutors would have most likely had a difficult time arguing that the murderer intended for the killing to happen under the circumstances, which is why second-degree murder was the more appropriate charge.
However, sentencing a murderer to probation and community service is a travesty of justice, some say.
Elizabeth spoke of the effect that Valdez’s loss is specifically on their mother. She said:
“It’s [the murder] still hard for all of us, especially for my Mum. She says she thinks of my brother every hour. She just thinks it’s not fair. He killed my brother and all he gets is probation for three years.”
Valdez’s mother, Marcela Fierros, did have the chance for the judge to hear her thoughts at the sentencing hearing. Through a family friend, her victim impact statement was read in court:
“It is unbelievable that a drug dealer murders my son with a knife and that he only gets probation.”
Want to make sure you never miss a story from Law Enforcement Today? With so much “stuff” happening in the world on social media, it’s easy for things to get lost.