It’s difficult to imagine a story that better captures the state of law enforcement in Chicago than this one.
A man who was singled out by the Chicago police superintendent as an example of an alleged murderer who should not have been released on electronic monitoring, only to be found not guilty six months later, allegedly ran from a crashed car in the Loop on Thursday evening, leaving behind a bag containing $8,000 in marijuana and a loaded handgun with an auto-fire switch and an extended magazine attached.
Chicago police posted pictures of the crash scene and contraband on Twitter. A witness recorded now-viral video of the man being tripped and tackled by a bystander as Chicago cops moved in to make the arrest near Lolapalooza.
And prosecutors charged him with the pot that was in the bag. But they did not charge him with the gun that allegedly had an auto-switch and extended magazine attached, leaving a Cook County judge dumbfounded.
“I’m having a hard time understanding how he’s charged with some contents of the bag but not all,” Judge Mary Marubio said during a Friday afternoon bail hearing.
A prosecutor told her that the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office considered filing gun charges but “decisions were made.”
An example and an acquittal
Torrence Reese, then 18, was charged in March 2017 with killing two people and injuring a third during a shootout that authorities said was the result of an attempt to steal marijuana. Reese was also shot during the incident.
A judge initially held him without bail, but he was later released on electronic monitoring to await trial on 140 felony counts.
Almost exactly one year ago, after July ended with more than 100 people murdered in Chicago, CPD Supt. David Brown identified Reese by name as an example of someone who should not be on electronic monitoring.
“If you release Mr. Reese, who was charged with two murders and an attempted murder, and continued to commit crime while in jail, we’re going to run in place as a city,” said Brown. “Too many violent, repeat offenders are being released back into these communities, creating a sense of lawlessness and no consequences for their behavior, making for a dangerous environment.”
Prosecutors dropped 110 of the 140 charges against Reese in January, a routine move to focus the allegations for trial.
After the state put on its case in February, Reese’s attorney, Michael Clancy, ripped their entire presentation in a memorandum to Judge Diana Kenworthy.
“To be blunt, the civilian witnesses called by the State were all liars,” Clancy wrote in the February 22 filing. They “all took an oath to tell the truth, then proceeded to prevaricate time and again. They contradicted each other on details big and small … It is plain that a murder scene was tampered with by two and likely three individuals in this case.”
On February 28, Kenworthy found Reese not guilty on every charge, including eight counts of murder.
On Thursday evening, Chicago police tried to pull over a white Jeep in the Loop. Prosecutors say the Jeep drove onto the sidewalk and ran red lights before it crashed into two cars that were stopped for a traffic signal near Michigan Avenue and Harrison Street, not far from the Lollapalooza festival.
The Jeep’s driver bailed out and Reese ran from its front passenger seat, Assistant State’s Attorney Steven Haamid said Friday.
This video shows what happened next. A man wearing a tie-dye shirt stuck his leg out and tripped Reese, who fell to the sidewalk. He got back up and started running, only to be pushed into a pole by the same bystander as cops approached. Watch:
Cops found a blue bookbag on the front passenger seat where Reese had been, Haamid said. Inside, officers found the loaded handgun with the auto-fire switch and extended magazine along with three bottles of promethazine and $8,100 worth of pot, according to Haamid. Another bag, located behind the driver’s seat, contained another $8,100 worth of marijuana, he continued.
The Chicago Police Department posted photos of the crash scene and the alleged contraband on Twitter.
Prosecutors charged the driver, Darius Sanford, with aggravated fleeing, possession of cannabis, and driving on a suspended license. The cannabis charge is linked to the bag that police allegedly found behind the driver’s seat.
They charged Reese with possession of cannabis and possessing a controlled substance for the pot and promethazine that was allegedly inside the blue bag.
“Why isn’t this gun charged?” asked Judge Marubio. “40-caliber handgun with an extended magazine and auto switch.”
“The gun charge was reviewed, and decisions were made at that time to not charge that gun,” Haamid replied.
“But is he then charged with the drugs in that bag?” Marubio countered.
“That is my understanding,” Hammid affirmed.
After a long silence, Marubio offered a confounded, “Okay.”
Reese only has two misdemeanor convictions in his background, including a mob action charge, which Brown was apparently referring to when he said Reese “continued to commit crime while in jail.”
Marubio ordered him to pay a $1,000 bail deposit to go home, where he must observe a 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew.
Sanford, convicted of two gun felonies and felony misuse of a credit card in 2011, according to Haamid, was ordered to pay a $2,500 deposit and then observe the same curfew. Marubio said his bail is higher because of the fleeing allegations.
According to the sheriff’s office online inmate search, neither man was in custody as of Saturday morning.