CHICAGO (STMW) – A Cook County jury convicted the gunman in the fatal drive-by shooting of Chicago Police Officer Alejandro “Alex” Valadez of murder and attempted murder after nearly seven hours of deliberation late Wednesday night.
Christopher Harris, 24, was the third of three defendants to be found guilty on charges connected to the June 1, 2009, killing in a vacant Englewood lot.
Earlier Wednesday, a separate jury found the getaway driver in the shooting, Kevin Walker, 25, guilty of the same charges.
The pair’s friend, reputed gang-banger Shawn Gaston, 24, is serving a 125-year sentence for his role in the deadly shooting.
But Harris fired the shots that killed Valadez in the 6000 block of South Hermitage, according to State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and her assistant Jeffrey Allen.
Harris admitted to detectives that he stuck his arm out of Gaston’s mother’s Pontiac G6 and shot a .357 revolver several times the morning of the crime.
“I shot the .357 but I didn’t mean to aim at anybody,” Harris said in the videotaped statement prosecutors presented in their closing arguments. “I shot four or five [times] at the most.”
Harris’ attorney Tod Urban contended that the experienced detectives “guided” Harris “down a path” and therefore, he told them what they wanted to hear.
“Things don’t line up as neatly as the State’s Attorney wants them to,” Urban said, pointing to the inconclusive DNA evidence left on the murder weapon.
Harris, Walker and Gaston were retaliating for an earlier shooting when bullets showered over Valadez, 27.
Instead of gunning down their enemies, they struck the plainclothed officer, who happened to be canvassing the area with other officers investigating the shots that had been fired at the trio.
“He died on that sidewalk . . . trying to protect the very people who killed him,” Allen said.
The three friends also were convicted with the attempted murder of Kelvin Thomas — the resident Valadez was interviewing when he was shot.
Shortly after the murder, Thomas’ sister, who used to live just feet away from the scene of the crime, identified Harris as the shooter in the back passenger seat of the Pontiac G6.
But when she testified in court last week, she couldn’t identify Harris — most likely because she didn’t want to be seen as a snitch, Alvarez concluded.
Alvarez dismissed Urban’s description of Harris as a “scared” young man when he was picked up by police.
“Don’t be fooled by the choir boy look,” Alvarez said just feet away from Harris, who wore a black and gray sweater and glasses in court.
Harris made the choice to go after those who shot at him and his buddies, she said.
“The only person leading Christopher Harris down a path is Christopher Harris,” Alvarez said.
“. . . He made a choice that night to become a murderer.”