Sept. 20, 2011: Litigating her first trial as Cook County State's Attorney, Anita Alvarez said alleged gunman Shawn Gaston celebrated with friends after shooting and killing Officer Alejandro "Alex" Valadez in June 2009.
Jurors late Wednesday evening convicted a self-proclaimed gang member in the shooting death of of a Chicago police officer.
Shawn Gaston was accused of pulling the trigger that killed 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.
Family members of both Gaston and Valadez were visibly emotional as the verdict was read.
"My nephew, who was born three months after my brother was murdered, will never know what his daddy's hugs and kisses feel like. His daddy will not be there on his first day of school," said Valadez's sister, Brenda Valadez, outside the courtroom.
During closing arguments earlier in the day, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, litigating her first case since 2005, explained how they believed Gaston leaned out the passenger window of a moving vehicle and fired the fatal shot while his friend, Kevin Walker, drove.
"Rage, revenge and senseless murder was his motive," said Asst. State's Attorney Frank Marek. "He didn't care who it was at the end of his gun."
But defense attorney John Paul Carroll told jurors they "don't have to believe everything [they] hear," and insisted throughout the eight-day trial that his client was innocent.
Valadez and his partner, Tom Vargas, were responding to a call of shots fired at West 60th Street and South Hermitage Avenue that night when Valadez was struck by bullets in his thigh and behind his left ear.
In closing, Carroll demonstrated how the bullet, according to him, entered into Valadez's skull and exited in such a way that it could never have been shot from Gaston's gun.
"Physics does not stop at that courtroom door. The laws of physics stay the same," he said.
Gaston and Walker were arrested within days of Valadez's slaying. A third man, Christopher Harris, was arrested several weeks later. All three admitted to police their roles in the crime, officials said.
Alvarez opened Gaston's trial last week, telling jurors that Gaston celebrated and partied with friends after the shooting.
Gaston faces between 60 and 100 years in jail when he's sentenced Oct. 28.