Judge asked to reconsider bond for man who allegedly sold rifle used in cop shooting
Chicago police investigate where two police officers were shot in the 4300 block of South Ashland Avenue in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood on May 2, 2017. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune)
Federal prosecutors alleged Friday that a convicted murderer released on bond this week on a weapons charge admitted he sold two military-style rifles — one later used in the wounding of two Chicago police officers — to a Chicago street gang in the midst of a war with rivals.
Prosecutors spelled out the details in a 10-page court filing asking U.S. Magistrate Judge Young Kim to reconsider his decision Wednesday to release Charles Williams on home confinement.
Williams was charged in a criminal complaint last week with one count of unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon. The charge stemmed from a June 16 deal in which he allegedly sold a 9 mm pistol to an undercover informant in west suburban La Grange, court records show.
In the filing Friday, prosecutors alleged Williams acknowledged in an interview with federal agents after his arrest that he’d provided semi-automatic rifles to members of the La Raza gang to use in its ongoing war with rival Hispanic gangs on the city’s South and West sides.
Williams said he knew from the associate who purchased the firearms that one of the weapons — a Century Arms military-style assault rifle — had been used in the May 2 shooting that wounded the two Deering District officers, according to the filing.
Williams said it upset him because he knew it would bring increased law enforcement scrutiny, prosecutors alleged.
In the June 29 interview with agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Williams also said he was comfortable with providing the weaponry to La Raza because rival gang members had been wreaking havoc in his neighborhood, prosecutors said.
He referred to a recent slaying of a child and described an incident in which he believed he’d almost been killed while walking though an alley near his home.
"I did know someone who could use these (expletive) rifles," Williams told agents, according to a transcript provided in the filing. "These dudes coming over here every (expletive) day with rifles. … But that was the thought process."
Prosecutors said the interview showed the danger Williams posed to the public.
"Arming his neighbors in an ongoing gang war, tolerating the killing of individuals, including innocent children, as the cost of doing business, and exhibiting concern only when he suspects that he may be arrested, demonstrates that (Williams) has no respect for the law," Assistant U.S. Attorney Kavitha Babu wrote.
Williams’ attorney, Robert Rascia, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Police have said two plainclothes Chicago police officers were riding in a covert van May 2 when they were wounded by the rifle fire at 43rd Street and Ashland Avenue in the South Side’s Back of the Yards neighborhood.
One officer suffered gunshot wounds to his left hip, his left upper arm and his right flank, while the second officer suffered lacerations and cuts to his upper back. Both were released from Stroger Hospital a day after the shooting.
Cook County prosecutors said the suspects, both members of La Raza, thought they were shooting at rival gang members, not police officers.
The man suspected of being the getaway driver, 18-year-old Angel Gomez, was arrested and charged with attempted murder and aggravated battery with a firearm in the shooting. But the alleged shooter, who prosecutors said fired 25 shots at the cops’ van, remains at large.
The federal complaint against Williams alleges he sold a 9 mm pistol last month to an undercover ATF informant. Agents were watching as Williams pulled his Nissan into a La Grange parking garage, popped the trunk and handed the informant a white plastic bag containing the weapon.
"It’s been fired, but it didn’t get fired at nothing," Williams allegedly told the informant, who was wearing a hidden wire. "I shot it at a (gun) range."
The informant told agents that he previously traded the same gun to Williams for about $350 worth of cocaine, according to the complaint.
In May, the informant had a similar transaction with Williams, that time trading him a Yugo Tokarev M57 pistol for about $200 worth of drugs, the complaint alleged.
Williams was convicted in 1998 of first-degree murder and sentenced to 30 years in Illinois state prison, according to the complaint. Details of that crime were not immediately available.
In a news conference last week about a new gun-crime initiative, Anthony Riccio, chief of the Chicago Police Department’s organized crime division, told reporters that Williams was one of five people who had handled the rifles.
"Ultimately it wound up in the hands of a guy named Charlie Williams who lives on the South Side of Chicago," Riccio said. "He is the one that transferred it to this street gang who used it to then shoot a police officer."
During a detention hearing Wednesday, prosecutors told Kim of Williams’ connection to the cops’ shooting but did not offer the details from the ATF interview, court records show.
Kim ruled that prosecutors had not established by "clear and convincing evidence" that Williams was a danger to the community, records show. The judge ordered him released on a recognizance bond.
In February, the Tribune reported that gangs in Back of the Yards and Brighton Park were increasingly using rifles. Police said that was the only area of the city where rifles styled after AR-15s and AK-47s were regularly used, a menacing new development in gang fights.
At the time, there had been more than 30 shootings believed to have been tied to semi-automatic rifles in the two neighborhoods over the previous nine months. At least 46 people were shot in those attacks, 13 fatally.
Police suspected the rifles were being passed around by members of four rival Hispanic gangs in the area — La Raza, the Almighty Saints, Satan Disciples and Gangster Two-Six.