On Sept. 29, after two and a half hours of deliberation, a jury found a 22-year-old Englewood man guilty of first-degree murder and attempted murder in the 2009 fatal shooting of a Chicago police officer.
The defendant, Shawn Gaston, was accused in the death of Chicago Police Department Officer Alejandro Valadez, who was shot after a fight between rival gangs on the Southside.
Gaston was also found guilty of attempted murder for shooting a middle-aged Englewood resident who was being interviewed by Valadez when both were shot.
Gaston could face 61 to 101 years in prison, the Chicago Sun-Times reported on Thursday. He confessed to the shooting after he was arrested.
During the trial in the Cook County criminal courthouse, dozens of CPD officers crowded into the courtroom to show their support for Valadez and his family.
In court testimony on Sept. 29, CPD officer Matthew Lopez said he was called to an address at 60th and Hermitage streets on June 1, 2009 after police received a report of weapons stored in a garage.
Lopez said he arrived at the scene and found a dilapidated garage. He said two other CPD officers had already arrived in unmarked police cars.
Lopez also said he spotted Valadez at a vacant lot outside the garage.
“I heard four slow gunshots,” Lopez said. He said he later heard a burst of rapid-fire volleys that he said could have come from a semi-automatic weapon.
Lopez said he saw several muzzle flashes and a white cloth shirt inside a dark-colored car near the vacant lot. After the flashes, the car left the scene of the shooting, he testified.
He said he then left the area of the shooting to look for the dark-colored vehicle. When he returned to the area, he said he saw Valadez lying prone on the ground, and other officers were trying to assist him. The officers then called an ambulance.
Under cross-examination, Gaston’s attorney, John Paul Carroll, suggested that because the area of the shooting was dark and Lopez was too far from Valadez, he might have had difficulty seeing the shooting.
Lopez also admitted he had not reviewed his notes or any reports about the shooting in more than two years since the crime occurred.
But during that night, Lopez was able to identify the car used in the shooting after searching through the neighborhood. A dark gray vehicle was found in an empty lot. A .357-caliber revolver, a .40-caliber handgun and a rifle were confiscated from the vehicle. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the car was registered to Gaston’s mother.
Megan Neff, a forensic scientist for the Illinois State Police, also testified on Monday. After performing multiple tests, she discovered that Gaston’s DNA was not found on any of the three weapons confiscated from the car, according to her testimony.
Under questioning by State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, Neff said it was possible for the suspect to have touched the weapons and not leave his DNA on any of them.
Two co-defendants, Kevin Walker and Christopher Harris, will be tried at a later date.