Judge Sentences Gang Member To Life For Murder
CHICAGO, 3:06 p.m. CST December 8, 2003 - Criminal Court Judge Thomas R. Sumner on Monday sentenced Hector Delgado, 18, to serve the remainder of his life in prison without the chance of parole for the June 30, 2001 slaying of plainclothes Chicago police patrolman Brian Strouse. Because Delgado was 16 years old at the time of the fatal shooting, this was the only sentence allowed under Illinois law.
Sumner said he has often had quarrel with the mandatory sentencing law. "I really have no choice," Sumner said. "And, quite frankly, I have often found that stature unconstitutional, but that isn't the case here."
A jury on Sept. 17 found Delgado guilty of first-degree murder of a police officer in the shooting of Strouse.Uniformed Chicago police officers applauded as Sumner handed down his decision. As he imposed the sentence, Sumner said there were many victims in the 33-year-old officer's death, not just the Strouse family, but the Delgado family, the "extended family" that is the police department, and all Chicagoans.
"By all accounts, Officer Strouse was a fine officer, who discharged his duty to the people of Chicago ... and he paid the ultimate price," the judge said. "Quite frankly, this isn't the first time this has happened. And unless we as citizens do something about it, it won't be the last. And that's the tragedy."
Seated next to his court-appointed lawyers, dressed in tan jail garb, Delgado, 18, showed no visible emotion as the sentence was read. Delgado, an admitted member of the Ambrose street gang, said in a videotaped statement shown to the jury that he shot and killed Strouse in a darkened alley behind 1322 W. 18th Pl., because he thought the plainclothes officer was a member of the rival La Raza gang.
Arguing before Sumner on Monday, Delgado's lead attorney, Assistant Public Defender LaFarrell Moffett, asked the judge to find any alternative to the life sentence. Moffett pleaded with the court for mercy, saying Delgado has a long history of learning disabilities and emotional disorders, but also has a family that has "steadfastly supported" him throughout the case. "He was a 16-year-old who made a very bad decision that cost a good man his life," Moffett said. "He was a young man who was seriously adrift."
But Assistant State's Attorney Tisa Morris noted that to this day, Delgado has never renounced his life as an Ambrose, and has even bolstered his allegiance by getting new gang tattoo's while in custody at the Cook County Jail.
"This defendant has never once expressed any remorse," Morris said. Paul Strouse, the father of the slain officer, often addressed Delgado -- once by his gang moniker, "He Man" -- as he read a victim impact statement on behalf of himself, his wife and their three daughters. "My one wish for you is that every day of your life in prison is worse than the day before," Paul Strouse said. "Brian died doing what he loved, serving and protecting the people of Chicago. Brian died my hero, my friend and my one and only son."
The prosecution intervened as Paul Strouse began to hold up photographs of how his son looked alive and dead, saying, "I've got something I'd like you to look at, He-Man."
Leaving the courthouse, Paul Strouse said he was pleased with the sentence, but said he wished Delgado had been eligible for execution, saying, "because of his age, he got lucky."
In a six-year career cut shout, Strouse was awarded 61 commendations and a life-saving award, his father said. "Always, police officers should be respected," Paul Strouse said. "The next time you see a cop, walk up, shake his hand and say thank you. Because when he leaves home at night, he doesn't know if he's coming back."
Teen gets life sentence for killing cop
Chicago Sun-Times, December 9, 2003
BY STEFANO ESPOSITO Staff Reporter
Moments after a Cook County judge handed teenage cop killer Hector Delgado a life prison sentence Monday, 2-1/2 years of bottled-up anger and frustration reverberated throughout the courtroom in a woman's slow, hard hand clap.
Then Paula Strouse glared at Delgado, convicted of killing her brother, Chicago police officer Brian Strouse, in a Pilsen alley in 2001:
"You're gonna get what you gave!" a shaking Strouse yelled at Delgado. "Enjoy it for the rest of your life. I've been silent too long."
Delgado, as he did throughout the emotional hearing, hung his head and looked at the floor.
In a courtroom packed with Chicago police officers and Strouse's family, Cook County Judge Thomas Sumner told Delgado the state Constitution prohibited him from imposing anything but a life term. Delgado was 16 when he shot Strouse in a Pilsen alley and was not eligible for the death penalty.
"Quite frankly, this is not the first time this has happened," Sumner said, apparently referring to police killings. "And unless we as citizens ... do something, it won't be the last."
Sumner also questioned defense attorney LaFarrell Moffett's claim that Delgado, given the chance, might one day lead a productive life.
"That's debatable," Sumner said. "It depends which side you're looking at."
In September, a jury found Delgado guilty of first-degree murder in Strouse's death. Strouse, 33, was killed about 2 a.m. June 30, 2001, as he
was staking out drug and gang activity in the 1300 block of West 18th Place. At the time, Delgado was working security for an Ambrose gang. At trial, the defense said Delgado shot Strouse in self defense, mistakenly thinking Strouse was a rival gang member.
However, prosecutors argued Delgado was a cold-blooded sniper who continued shooting at Strouse even after he identified himself as a police officer. Delgado, who had been in the gang for about a month, wanted to prove himself to his fellow gang members, prosecutors said.
And that gang worship continues to this day, prosecutors said, noting Delgado has acquired three new tattoos while in jail, one of which reads: "Outlaw."
"He's basically proud of what he did, and he wants to show everyone he is still an active member," Assistant State's Attorney Brian Sexton said after the sentencing.
Strouse's father, shooting steely glances at Delgado, testified Monday, describing the unending pain of losing a heroic son to an "assassin."
"No one can comprehend the heartbreak of not being at your son's deathbed for a last goodbye kiss," Paul Strouse said. "Instead, the last memory of my son was [of] a bloated body in a casket."
Strouse clutched one photograph of a smiling Brian Strouse and another picture, showing a close-up of the slain man's puffy face and partially shaved head.
"I've got something I'd like you to look at, He-man," Strouse barked at Delgado, but Sumner told Strouse not to hold up the photographs.
"My wish for you is that each day of your life in prison is worse than the one before," the grieving father said.
Moffett described Delgado as a youth "seriously adrift," who took to the streets in search of camaraderie and acceptance, but he was not "a very bad man in the making," as prosecutors have suggested.
Outside the courtroom, amid hugs from several Chicago police officers, Strouse family members said they were mostly pleased with the outcome.
"It's over, it's done," said Kathy Strouse, Brian Strouse's sister and also a Chicago police officer. "Now that it's done, it's time to move on with our lives."