It was a chance encounter between two acquaintances in a Menards parking lot, but enough for a 2-year-old dispute over $700 to boil over into gunfire.
Now Antonio Macedo is facing charges of attempted first-degree murder. That makes him just the second person arrested and charged so far with firing a gun during an August weekend that saw 75 people shot.
At least 12 people were killed and 63 others were wounded — the most violent weekend in the city in at least two years. More than 30 were shot in just six attacks as gunmen targeted large groups at a block party and other outdoor gatherings.
The Tribune is examining that first weekend of August, hoping to shed light on the challenges authorities face in solving crime, as well as the impact unsolved shootings may have on the city’s ongoing cycle of violence. Tribune reporters have logged every shooting from that weekend and are continuing to compare those records with ones the city maintains of both incidents and arrests.
What little progress detectives have made has come from unusual breaks, illustrating how hard much of Chicago’s violent crime has been to solve. The department’s crime-solving rate — known as the clearance rate — for homicides was about 17 percent last year. For shootings that were not fatal, the rate was even more dismal.
The longer the other cases go without an arrest, the tougher it will be to solve them. Experts in law enforcement say the first 48 to 72 hours are when the most progress is usually made. It has been five weeks since August started so explosively.
As detailed by the Tribune last month, police relied heavily on technology to file the first charges against a shooting suspect from the weekend. Cameras not only captured the shooting aftermath, but they also tracked the suspect’s car until officers spotted it and took someone into custody.
Macedo was charged thanks to something that can be almost as rare: a victim who cooperates.
Guillermo Botello, 62, says he gave police a statement and identified Macedo as his attacker. Macedo made a confession and was charged, according to the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.
But the cooperation came in a conflict that is not typical of the gun violence police are struggling to solve. Both the victim and the suspect are older than most shooting victims in the city. And the attack was over a personal dispute involving money.
This was not street retaliation, the kind of violence engulfing thousands of men in hundreds of gangs who are perpetually settling scores over everything from drug territory to insults, both real and imagined.
‘I had to show police who it was’
Botello sat in his West Side home surrounded by framed pictures, including a portrait of his son who served in the military. A fan blew cool air through the living room.
The 62-year-old, tall and slender, wore a U.S. Army cap to cover his long, bushy gray hair. He told the Tribune he and Macedo were acquaintances and, in the last few years, he had done some handiwork at Macedo’s home. After the job was done, Botello said Macedo owed him $700 but never paid up.
About 10 months later, Botello bumped into Macedo and asked him about the money. Botello said Macedo got angry and didn’t pay him.
On Aug. 5, Botello said he was heading to a Menards near North and Kostner avenues in West Humboldt Park when he encountered Macedo — an account confirmed in court documents. He said the two passed while driving in opposite directions. Macedo made a U-turn and followed Botello.
Botello went to park his car outside the Menards, and Macedo drove next to him. “He looked at me with a gun and he shot me,” Botello said.
Botello was wounded in the arm and grazed in the head. He was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital and released after a few hours.
Botello said he spoke with police at the hospital and again in his home. “I felt good. I had to show police who it was.”
When asked about his decision to cooperate, Botello expressed surprise at the question. “Why you ask me that?” he said. “People don’t do that?”
Macedo was arrested in the South Loop on Aug. 22, 17 days after the shooting, by officers with the Police Department’s Fugitive Apprehension Section, according to a police report.
A hurdle for detectives
Chicago’s clearance rate for nonfatal shootings has dropped from an already-low 11 percent in 2010 to just 5 percent in 2016, according to an analysis by the University of Chicago. Police have singled out a lack of cooperation from the community as a key reason why they don’t solve more cases.
Deputy Chief Brendan Deenihan said cooperation from victims is particularly crucial in solving retaliatory street shootings: If a victim won’t talk, how can detectives charge a shooter? In recent years, clearance rates have dropped as crime has spiked in areas of gang conflicts.
The August weekend violence reflects this struggle: In addition to the charges that have been filed, the department reports progress on just three other cases:
— A woman has been charged with having two handguns in a car outside Mount Sinai Hospital. The guns were seized after the 26-year-old woman drove a victim to the hospital from a shooting in the 2600 block of West 12th Place. The shooting has not been solved.
— An arrest warrant has been issued in an Aug. 3 shooting on the South Side. It was drawn up after someone provided a description to officers, a department spokesman said. Gun evidence also was recovered and tested.
— The only development so far in the 12 homicides is an investigative alert issued in one of the attacks. The alert includes a description of a person police want to interview.
Even in one of the cases in which charges were filed, police were limited because the victim would not help.
Rick Franklin, 27, was arrested within an hour of being caught on camera shooting someone on Aug. 4 at Pulaski Road and Madison Street, police said. Officers also recovered a gun. But Franklin escaped a more serious charge, like aggravated battery with a firearm or attempted murder, because the 26-year-old victim would not cooperate.
“This is the best case we can possibly talk about,” Deenihan told the Tribune last month. “We saw the car fleeing. We got him on video. We got the gun. But you can’t charge anybody with a shooting when the victim doesn’t cooperate.”
The charges against Macedo were more serious because Botello gave a statement. Macedo was charged with attempted murder and aggravated battery with a firearm and ordered held without bail.
Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the attempted murder charges would not have been filed without Botello’s help.
The state’s attorney’s office declined to discuss details on both Franklin’s and Macedo’s cases.
Robert Loeb, a criminal defense lawyer and former Cook County prosecutor, said people not only distrust police, but they also fear retaliation on the street. In some neighborhoods torn by gang violence, some don’t want to be seen talking to the police.
Changes in Chicago’s gang structure can make it harder to stay anonymous, he suggested. Large street gangs have dissolved into small factions — often referred to as “cliques” — and members generally know everyone who lives on the block.
“That dissuades people from getting involved,” Loeb said. “It’s become more difficult to anonymously help the police because the gangs are so much more localized.”
One solution is to put witnesses before a grand jury during the early stages of the case to lock in their statements under oath, Loeb said. That way, if witnesses later recant their testimony during a trial, prosecutors can rely on those statements.
That tactic was used in last month’s trial of two men for the 2013 slaying of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton. Taking the stand, three friends of the accused backed off lengthy statements they had given at the grand jury. In response, prosecutors entered into the record lengthy excerpts from their grand jury testimony and signed statements to authorities.
Prosecutors also called to the stand former prosecutors who years ago had brought the three friends of the accused before the grand jury. Micheail Ward and Kenneth Williams were convicted.
Last Friday, at the courthouse at Grand and Central avenues, Macedo walked into Judge Donald Panarese Jr.’s sparsely attended courtroom dressed in tan jail scrubs, his hands behind his back. Two sheriff’s deputies stood behind him. He said nothing.
Macedo’s lawyer argued for Panarese to set bail for his client, a father of four. Prosecutors detailed the shooting and informed the judge that Macedo had given authorities a confession. The judge refused to release him from jail and set another court hearing for Sept. 17.
Franklin, meanwhile, was recently indicted on aggravated unlawful use of a weapon charges. He also remains at Cook County Jail pending the outcome of the case.
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