A top prosecutor has taken the rare step of delivering opening statements at the trial of a purported gang member accused in the shooting death of a Chicago police officer.
Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez addressed jurors Monday. She's serving as lead prosecutor at a time of heightened local and national scrutiny of persistent violence in Chicago.
Christopher Harris is accused of gunning down Alejandro Valadez as the officer responded to reports of gunshots in a South Side neighborhood in 2009.
With the alleged murder weapon on a nearby prosecution table Alvarez fashioned her fingers to mimic a gun, saying Harris repeatedly shot in the 27-year-old officer's direction.
Valadez and his partner, Tom Vargas, were responding to a call of shots fired at West 60th Street and South Hermitage Avenue that night in June 2009 when Valadez was struck by bullets in his thigh and behind his left ear.
"I could feel rounds over the top of my head as I was trying to pull my weapon. I illuminated my flashlight and I saw blood on the ground and immediately I knew he was dead. His eyes were open, but he never responded. He was looking around," Vargas testified.
Kevin Walker and Christopher Harris are being held without bond in Cook County Jail.
Another person has already been found guilty in connection with Valadez' death. Shawn Gaston is serving a 125-year prison sentence.
Gaston was found guilty in October 2011 of being the triggerman in the shooting death of Officer Alejandro "Alex" Valadez on June 1, 2009. Gaston, the first of three men to stand trial, was also found guilty of attempted murder for shooting at Valadez's partner in the same incident.
The sentence is the maximum Gaston could have received, and he'll have to serve at least 80 years.
Gaston continued to proclaim his innocence at his sentencing.
"I love my family. I want to apologize to you, to the victim's family I send my heart out. But I'm an innocent man, I lost a lot of people in my life too. But I'm an innocent man," Gaston said.
Prosecutors contended Gaston was out for revenge after he and other alleged gang members were shot at by rivals