Supporters of Shawn Gaston exit the courthouse at lunch break. Shawn Gaston, the man who shot and killed Chicago Police Officer Alejandro “Alex” Valadez in a fit of vengeance in 2009, was sentenced Friday to 125 years in prison at the Criminal Courts building on Friday, October 28, 2011 in Chicago . | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times
A jury found him guilty in two hours of murdering a Chicago Police officer investigating a crime against him.
The judge denied him a new trial, calling the evidence against him overwhelming.
Still, in the presence of his victim’s weeping family, rows of Chicago Police and his own relatives, Shawn Gaston rose at his sentencing hearing Friday to insist he’s innocent of killing Alejandro “Alex” Valadez on June 1, 2009.
Then Cook County Judge Jorge L. Alonzo gave the 22-year-old a sentence of 125 years in prison for Valadez’s murder and the attempted murder of the man the officer was interviewing on an Englewood street.
“My heart goes out to the Valadez family but I’m an innocent man,” he said, dressed in a red jail jumpsuit. “I’m not going to stop until my innocence is proved.”
Nevertheless, he apologized, without elaborating, to his own family “for all the pain I put them through,”
But Alonzo said the shooter deserved the maximum sentence, not another chance. Gaston had already blown off probation three times in an earlier gun case. And when he opened fire in the 6000 block of South Hermitage, he killed one of the officers out in the neighborhood investigating a volley of shots aimed at Gaston earlier that day.
“He didn’t care who he shoots. He was there to make a point,” Alonzo said. “He should have looked to someone else for how to be a man, and that someone else was Officer Valadez.”
Valadez — the youngest of 7 children, the third police officer in the family and the second sibling to be shot to death — died three months before his son was born, two of his sisters told the judge.
“The fact that my nephew will never spend time with his father has been the hardest thing to deal with aside from his death,” said sister Wilda Garcia, who wept at times. “He looks so much like his daddy, too.”
Valadez volunteered to leave a quiet district for the 7th District that policed the tougher Englewood community because, his sister and fellow officer Brenda Valadez said, “He wanted to be where he would make a difference.”
He had become a police officer because he and his siblings were kept awake at night in Little Village by gang-bangers, she told the judge — gang members who shot and killed their eldest brother, Rogelio Jr., at age 18.
Valadez’s slaying prompted a new law named for him that requires prison time for street gang members convicted of possessing a loaded gun in a public area.
State’s attorney Anita Alvarez, prosecuting her first case since her 2008 election, had asked for the maximum sentence for Gaston, who was facing the death penalty until Illinois legislators voted to abolish it.
“Officer Valadez took an oath to serve and protect. He lived by that oath, he died by that oath,” she said. “Society needs to be protected from the likes of Shawn Gaston. The streets of Englewood need to be protected from the likes of Shawn Gaston.”
Prosecutors argued that Gaston was itching for vengeance when he opened fire on a pair of men standing in a vacant Englewood lot two years ago. Valadez, 27, was investigating a call of shots fired at Gaston, when Gaston and his two friends, using Gaston’s mother’s Pontiac, slowly descended on the officer. Christopher Harris, the other accused gunman, and Kevin A. Walker, the alleged getaway driver, still await trial.
Gaston, in a videotaped confession, claimed Valadez was armed. Gaston said he aimed in the area where Valadez had been standing.
“I did the shooting,” Gaston nonchalantly said on tape.
Police discovered the .40-caliber gun along with a rifle and the .357 weapon tied to Valadez’s murder in the Pontiac’s trunk, and Gaston had gunshot residue on his hands following the deadly shooting.
He also was convicted of the attempted murder of a middle-aged Englewood resident Valadez was interviewing when a bullet from a .357-caliber handgun pierced the plain-clothed officer’s left ear and thigh.
Defense attorney John Paul Carroll likened the case to the Harper Lee novel To Kill a Mockingbird, arguing, over an hour and half, for a new trial for his client with a bevy of props and such gusto the judge told him to “save some passion for sentencing.”
“BB gun, black man, dead policeman, got it?” he argued. “I submit this young black man didn’t get a fair trial.”
But when the time came to ask the judge for the shortest possible sentence, Carroll declined.
“Mr. Gaston is actually innocent of the shooting so I think talk of mitigating circumstances is irrelevant,” he said. Carroll also declined to ask for credit for the 880 days Gaston has served since his arrest, saying, “I don’t think it makes much difference.”