The gun used in the shooting of three Chicago police officers last week has been linked to a former Chicago officer who later joined a police force in the northern suburbs, the Tribune has learned.
Chicago police now are trying to figure out how the gun — originally purchased by a man who until Friday was a Lake County sheriff’s deputy — ended up in the hands of 29-year-old Lamar Harris, a convicted felon with dozens of arrests who was killed in the shootout with police.
Multiple law enforcement sources confirmed that authorities investigating the shooting have traced the weapon that wounded the three officers back to the deputy.
That officer was fired from his job with the Lake County sheriff’s department Friday after being placed on leave two days earlier, Rich Bruno, vice president of the Illinois Council of Police, the union representing the deputies, confirmed.
The county was not required to give a reason for the termination because the 27-year-old deputy was within a 12-month probationary period for new officers, Bruno said.
The union official said he wasn’t privy to all the facts of the investigation into the shooting of the Chicago officers, but he added: “In regard to that incident, (the ex-deputy) had no involvement.”
Bruno did not directly address whether he was told that investigators had traced the gun to the fired deputy, but he said: “To the best of my knowledge, (the gun) was reported stolen.” He did not say when the report was made or by whom.
Lake County Undersheriff Ray Rose confirmed the deputy left the department last Friday but would not elaborate on the circumstances.
One of the law enforcement sources said the deputy, when questioned by investigators, told them he had not realized the gun was missing. The source said the investigation has revealed that the deputy has purchased at least 45 guns.
A man reached by phone Wednesday identified himself as the deputy in question. When told the reason for the call, he said he would call back but did not, and later could not be reached.
The three Chicago officers were injured, and Harris was killed, during an exchange of gunfire at about 10 p.m. March 14 in the West Side’s Homan Square neighborhood as the cops were investigating possible drug-related activity, police have said.
When the three Harrison District tactical officers approached Harris and a woman he was with in the area, Harris took off running and then opened fire on the trailing officers, striking all three, police said. At least one of the wounded officers managed to fire back at Harris, interim police Superintendent John Escalante has said.
The superintendent said a gun was recovered from Harris. The woman was questioned by police but later released without charges.
One of the officers was shot in the foot and the other caught gunfire in his bulletproof vest, sources said. The third officer was shot in his back.
State records show that the officer who initially purchased the handgun later used by Harris worked for the Chicago Police Department from June 2013 to January, and multiple law enforcement sources said he worked at least part of that time in the Harrison District where the shooting occurred. He started working for the Lake County sheriff’s highway patrol division Jan. 11, the undersheriff said.
Prior to joining the Chicago force, the man served as a reserve officer for the Lake Geneva, Wis., department for about two months in spring 2013, according to department officials. He was still in a training phase and had limited, if any, experience on the street before he was hired by the Chicago force.
When asked about the fired deputy being tied to the investigation of the shooting of the three Chicago officers, Rose said: “I think our position is that it would be inappropriate to comment on a Chicago police investigation.”
Law-enforcement officials said gun sales are registered with the federal government at the time a gun is initially purchased. Later, if a gun is resold privately, in Illinois the seller must retain a record of the sale.
Chicago police are still trying to determine how Harris obtained the gun that was used to shoot the officers, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. He couldn’t elaborate, citing the ongoing investigation.