Off-duty cop claims self-defense in killing of 2 men

Chicago Sun-Times,  Apr 8, 2006  by Frank Main

An off-duty Chicago Police officer who fatally shot two men early Friday had intervened in an earlier bar argument involving at least one of them, sources said.

Edward P. Yerke, a 36-year-old Albany Park District tactical officer, killed Kenneth Elrod, 31, of the 5400 block of West Waveland and Demetri Centera, 31, of the 4700 block of North Kenneth, authorities said.

Yerke stepped in to break up an altercation involving Elrod at Magic Touch Club, 5728 W. Belmont. Elrod told Yerke he would "be back" and went to pick up Centera, police sources said.

About 2:30 a.m., they pulled up to Yerke's 2003 Hummer at a stoplight at Belmont and Kilpatrick and allegedly pointed guns at Yerke. They may have been seeking payback for the earlier incident, sources said.

Yerke, a seven-year veteran, told investigators he shot the men because he feared for his life. Investigators found he followed state and department guidelines for the use of deadly force, police said.


Officers recovered a .38-caliber revolver and a .25-caliber semi- automatic pistol from the white Ford pickup truck in which Elrod and Centera were shot, police spokeswoman Monique Bond said. Police also found extra ammunition on Elrod, sources said.

No one else was in either of the vehicles involved in the shootings, police said.

Elrod and Centera were believed to be members of the Latin Eagles street gang, police said. They had extensive criminal records, she said.

Elrod and Centera were plumbers, according to their families and friends.

Elrod had served at least two stints in prison on burglary and drug convictions in the 1990s in DuPage and Cook counties, court records show.

"The family is pretty devastated," said a sister-in-law, Linda Morales. "He drank at bars, but that does not make him a criminal."

Elrod's gang affiliation was in the past, Morales said.

"Since he got married to my sister four years ago, he has been dedicated to the family. He's been a completely different man, hard- working. He loved his job and gave everything possible to his kids. He even told his wife not to work anymore to be with the kids," Morales said.

Elrod had a 4-month-old son and a 2-year-old daughter, Morales said.

"He was so happy with his son. He told me he was going to teach him to be a plumber. To go to college and be a plumber like his dad," Morales said.

She said her brother-in-law and Centera were friends. The white pickup truck belonged to Elrod, she said.

Centera had been arrested at least 26 times for everything from felony marijuana possession to disorderly conduct and trespassing, records show. Still, Annis Abid, a neighbor of Centera, said he could not believe Centera would pull a gun on someone.

"We'd sit out in the summers and barbecue and drink beer," said Abid, adding that he knew Centera about four years. "It's crazy, man. I'd never expect anything like this. Shooting. Killing. He wasn't like that."