Same crew hit both NBA stars

FOUR CHARGED | Police say men scoped out players' homes

August 11, 2007

NBA stars Eddy Curry and Antoine Walker were the targets of the same crew of armed robbers who scoped out their luxury homes to plan last month's headline-grabbing strong-arm robberies, police said Friday.

Four reputed members of the Traveling Vice Lords street gang have been charged in the Walker robbery, and two of the four have been charged in the July 28 Curry robbery, police officials said.

Walker, a Mount Carmel graduate who now plays for the Miami Heat, said Friday he didn't know any of the men accused of breaking into his $4 million River North home on July 9, binding him with duct tape and robbing him of $200,000 in cash and jewelry.

"I don't know anybody,'' Walker said at a City Hall news conference where he announced a charity basketball game scheduled for Sunday. "But I feel comfortable. I feel happy they have someone in custody and hopefully we can get them off the street."

Fingerprint led to suspects

In both cases, the NBA stars and others in their homes were tied up with duct tape as three masked offenders pillaged their homes for jewelry and cash. Walker's black Mercedes CL550 also was stolen. It was later found in a vacant lot on the West Side, stripped of its wheels and stereo.

A fingerprint taken from the car came back to Phillip Allison, 28, one of the four charged with multiple counts of home invasion, aggravated kidnapping and robbery, Belmont Area Cmdr. Tom Byrne said.

Also charged is Demorris Hill, 25; Antoine Larkins, 28, and Gregory Reedfields, 23. All four participated in the July 9 break-in at Walker's home, police said. Hill and Larkins also are charged in the Curry break-in, Burr Ridge police said.

Burr Ridge police are still searching for another suspect in the robbery of Curry, the former Chicago Bulls and Thornwood standout who now plays for the New York Knicks.

Allison, of the 4200 block of West Van Buren, has previously been convicted of burglary. Hill, of the 1700 block of North Luna, has a robbery conviction on his record. Larkins, of the 1300 block of South Washtenaw, and Reedfields, of the 3100 block of West Roosevelt, also have arrest records.

No links between the four and the basketball stars have been found, police said.

"This is a straight robbery,'' Byrne said of the Walker case. "Obviously they felt that our victim would have money and jewelry based on his status as a player."

Officials from Chicago and Burr Ridge said the crew surveilled their targets to plan their attack.

"A lot of these guys work out at the same facilities. It's just a matter of somebody possibly following them,'' Byrne said.

Burr Ridge Police Chief Herbert Timm said Curry's home is in a remote area and would have required a lot of surveillance to hit.

Both home invasions began in the garage as the robbers surprised their victims.

In the break-in at Curry's home, his wife was forced to answer questions about the location of jewelry hidden there, Timm said.

Detectives from the Belmont Area property crimes section worked for a month to track the crew down, working off the print found in Walker's car and surveillance tapes from around Walker's River North home.

Phone records of exchanges between offenders who were inside the house and one who was circling outside during the break-in also led to the charges.

Another key break was the July 12 arrest of a woman caught with some of Walker's jewelry.

Walker said while he is relieved about the arrests, crime is "going to impact your life."

"If you're in a position where you have a lot of money, you're going to always be a target,'' he said. "You continue with your life and watch your surroundings."


So who are the folks sleeping in the parks?


C'mon, Chicago, homeless count just doesn't add up

August 13, 2007

The homeless population in Washington Square Park the other morning was equal to fully one-third of the homeless population of downtown Chicago.

There were eight homeless people in Washington Square Park, a k a Bughouse Square, on the Near North Side.

And yet there are only 24 people living on the streets in the entire downtown area just south of that park, according to that ridiculous count released by the city.

If that's the case, I must be familiar with just about every homeless person in downtown Chicago. I'm on those streets nearly every day, and I could easily identify a couple dozen panhandlers by face after all these years.

But perhaps my head count in Washington Square is off.

When I did my survey, I counted 15 people who appeared not to be homeless, judging by their attire, demeanor, etc.

The eight folks I counted as homeless were all sleeping or resting in the small park. All were unkempt, and all had garbage bags or shopping bags filled with clothes and other items by their sides.

By the rationale of the city census, I'm just jumping to conclusions. Just because someone is unkempt, wearing long pants in the sweltering heat, sleeping in the park at 10 a.m., and has garbage bags filled with clothes and shoes, doesn't mean that person is homeless.

Maybe it was just the weekly Nap Session of the Chicago Eccentric Club.

Jumping to conclusions?

Two Mondays ago, after Eddy Curry became the second Chicago-area NBA player to be robbed at gunpoint in his home, I wrote:

"Maybe it's the same perpetrators -- which would mean they're very bold and/or dumb, and they're almost asking to get caught."

As you probably heard, four men have been charged in the July 9 holdup and robbery of Antoine Walker in River North -- and two of those men have also been charged in the robbery at Curry's suburban home.

If convicted, these guys are facing some serious jail time. Charges include home invasion, armed robbery and aggravated kidnapping.

According to police, the four suspects are with the Traveling Vice Lords gang. At a press conference, Walker said he didn't know the suspects. Police said neither Walker nor Curry had any affiliation with any of the suspects.

It's possible another party hatched the less-than-brilliant plan to rob the NBA stars. Maybe that person is someone who knows somebody who knows Walker or Curry, or at least knew where they lived. Right now, though, we don't have any evidence of such a connection.

When the holdup at Walker's house first hit the news, a lot of us -- myself included -- wondered if it was an inside job. You know how those NBA guys are, rolling with their posses, hanging out with undesirables. Even if their buddies are good guys, there's always the friend of the friend who sees the fancy cars and all that ice and thinks: There's a target.

Perhaps that will still turn out to be the case -- that the suspects were hired by someone who knew Walker and/or Curry.

But I wonder. What if the two NBA players who had been robbed in two separate incidents had been, say, Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki? Would we have been so quick to assume their "associates" were somehow involved in the crimes?

The price of being a contender

A lot of NFL players say a four-game exhibition season is too much, and I agree. But believe it or not, they used to play SIX exhibition games in the 1970s.

Even though the calendar and the humidity say it's summer, they're playing those exhibition games already. The Bears edged the Texans in a "thriller" Saturday night.

So maybe you're looking to buy some tickets from a broker for, say, the Bears-Packers game at Soldier Field Dec. 23. Might be Brett Favre's last appearance here, ever!

Better start saving now. According to one site, a single ticket in the 31st row in the far corner of Upper Level 350 is going for $310. Anything reasonably close to the field is going to cost you at least $500 per ticket -- and if you want premium seats, we're talking $700-plus, per ticket.

This is what happens when the home team is a Super Bowl contender. People will gladly shell out hundreds if not thousands of dollars for the privilege of sitting in 15-degree weather and watching their beloved Bears.