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Off-Duty Officer Was Murdered Because He Was Hispanic, Top Cop Says

Officer John Rivera was shot to death early Saturday in River North.

Officer John Rivera, 23, was shot dead Saturday in the 700 block of North Clark Street.
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RIVER NORTH — Two men have been charged with murder after an off-duty officer was gunned down early Saturday in River North.

Police think the slain officer, 23-year-old John Rivera, of the 6th (Gresham) Police District, was targeted because he was Hispanic and the gunman who killed him had gotten into a fight with a Hispanic man earlier in the night, said Supt. Eddie Johnson at a Monday news conference.

“It appears [the gunman] was just looking for a Hispanic person” and shot Rivera, Johnson said. “I guess he settled for the first Hispanic he saw.”

Menelik Jackson, 24, and Jovan Battle, 32, have been charged in the case. Each faces a charge of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder, police said. Jackson was also charged with resisting arrest.

Police are still looking for a third person who was allegedly involved in the shooting.

The incident, which Johnson called a “nightmare,” began 2:20 a.m. Saturday at the Rock’n’Roll McDonald’s in the 600 block of North Clark Street.

Two people, including Jackson, got into a fight with people from a party bus and one of them was punched by someone from the party bus, said Chief of Detectives Melissa Staples.

Jackson ran away and returned but the people from the party bus had left, Staples said. Jackson and another person returned and looked for the party bus.

An hour later, Rivera, another off-duty officer, a woman and a man walked to their car, which was parked in the 700 block of North Clark Street. Three people came up to them and one of them fired multiple shots into the car.

Rivera tried to shield his girlfriend from the gunfire with his body, said Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi in a tweet.

Rivera was killed and another man was critically wounded. The second victim’s condition has stabilized and officials expect him to survive, Johnson said.

The shooting was recorded on video and investigators were able to identify all three people who had been allegedly involved in the shooting, Staples said. Searches of Jackson’s home and car led to officers finding the gun allegedly used in the shooting.

Johnson suggested the shooting was not a case of mistaken identity, saying Jackson, Battle and the other man knew the party bus had left the area but targeted Rivera because he was Hispanic and the person who punched them was Hispanic.

It’s possible hate crime charges will be filed against the men, Johnson said.

Jackson had previously applied to be a Chicago Police office but was rejected after being arrested and convicted of armed home invasion, Johnson said.

“That’s probably one of the most disgusting things about this particular incident, is that this guy actually had the nerve to think he could become a Chicago Police officer. It’s disgusting,” Johnson said. “The whole situation is tragic, but when you pile that on to it, it just makes it tougher for us to deal with.”

Rivera had been working and helped investigate a murder just hours before he was shot. His commanding officer, Cmdr. William Bradley, said Rivera had been part of “our 6th District family.”

“A really good spirit. All he wanted to do was help people,” Bradley said. “He was such a good person. Not only a good police officer, but a good person. … He went out there every day trying to make the city safer and better.”

Johnson said he imagined Rivera had been excited to help make change in the city.

“From what I know about him, he is the kind of officer that we want in Chicago: a hard worker who loved going out on patrol and solving problems,” Johnson said during a weekend news conference. “It’s just a shame this kid, 23 years old, with his whole life and career in front of him, and he gets gunned down senselessly.”

Jackson and Battle were scheduled to appear in Bond Court on Monday.