Cops keep lid on gangs after boy slain: 2 armed suspects in rival

Chicago Sun-Times,  Jul 14, 2006  by Annie Sweeney

Just three hours after 14-year-old Miguel Contreras was shot to death in front of his little brother, a suspected gang member from a rival neighborhood was found three blocks away -- crouching behind cars with a TEC-9 loaded with 21 live rounds, gang member, was at Fairfield and 42nd on Tuesday night, across the street from a group of other gang members standing on a corner, when Deering District tactical officers nabbed him and the weapon, which he tossed trying to escape.

About three hours later, investigators recovered yet another weapon -- this one a .police said Thursday.

Police said 19-year-old Jesse Lopez, believed to be a 22-caliber Derringer handgun -- from another alleged gang member, Ramon Ortega, 22, who was in a car at 53rd and Kedzie flashing gang signs and yelling slogans.

MAY BE GANG-RELATED

Deering District police Cmdr. Eugene Roy said that while the neighborhood, Brighton Park, has been quiet, the sequence of events shows just how quickly a gang war can be touched off.

"It's stopped for the moment," Roy said. "It certainly prevented, in the short term, a retaliatory shooting . . . because our supervisor on the street read a situation."

Deering Gang Sgt. Bill Hardy said he deployed officers to Kedzie and Fairfield because officers were told the gangs that frequent those areas -- the Satan Disciples and Latin Kings -- could be involved in Miguel's shooting.

Police investigators said the killing of Miguel -- shot to death in front of his 10-year-old brother while riding his bicycle Tuesday night in the 2900 block of West 40th Street -- is believed to be gang-related, in part because his two assailants yelled "SD," for Satan Disciple, before they fired.

Miguel's family has said he was never involved in gangs, although his shooting -- in the heart of the "Two-Six" gang territory -- might have been enough to touch off a retaliatory shooting, Roy said.

"Gangs are so territorial that even if somebody wasn't [a gang member], they might view that as an intrusion and would respond," he said.

PRIESTS SOUGHT OUT FOR HELP

Lopez and Ortega were charged with unlawful use of a weapon.

Hardy shifted his teams around throughout the night because the department wants street supervisors to respond quickly.

"Tempers are high," Hardy said. "People are going to be angered by . . . a 14-year-old shot."

Roy said the neighborhood had a flareup of shootings in February, but until recently it has been comparatively quiet.

In the meantime, the commander has been seeking out local Catholic priests for help. This summer, Roy went to St. Pancratious, in uniform, to talk to the congregation during a homily about parental responsibility.

Also Thursday, Chicago Police Supt. Phil Cline met with several suburban police chiefs downtown to map out anti-gang strategies.

In addition, two street masses were being organized for this weekend, in response to Miguel Contreras' shooting.