PILSEN — More than 100 people surrounded Miguel Vega’s grieving family and friends Wednesday evening in Pilsen, just days after police fatally shot him.
The crowd stood alongside a makeshift altar with candles and flowers near 19th and Throop streets, the spot where the 26-year-old was killed Monday. Friends and strangers came to show support for the Vega family, adding flowers to the altar and kneeling to light candles.
Muralist and Pastor Milton Coronado led the vigil with a prayer, calling for clarity to heal the “anxiety, anger, sorrow and pain” the Vega family is feeling as they searched for answers.
“One day we will see Miguel again,” Coronado said. “And we are certain clarity will come.”
Aztec dancers entered a cleansing circle and prayed for Vega and his family.
A tearful Erik Vega remembered his brother as a “great guy” who loved his two sons “more than anything in this world … . He only tried his best.”
Like everyone, Miguel Vega made mistakes, but he was working to turn his life around, Erik Vega said.
“What hurts me the most is that his two young boys are going to grow up without a father,” the 20-year-old said.
Monday Night Shooting
At 10:45 p.m. Monday, officers were driving in the 1300 block of West 19th Street when they saw five people standing on the sidewalk. Someone allegedly shot at their police car, Chicago Police said in a preliminary statement.
A resident, who declined to be identified for fear of retribution, told Block Club Chicago they were out on a walk when they saw at least three men they didn’t recognize standing on the block before the shooting happened.
Shortly after, a neighbor called 911 to report suspicious men on the block and police officers responded to the scene in an unmarked car. Someone standing with the group of men “shot at the police, and the police shot back and killed one of them,” the witness said.
When police returned fire, the men started running away, the witness said.
Following the shooting, Deputy Chief Daniel O’Shea said at a press conference officers were responding to a call of a suspicious person when they got out of their car and someone fired shots in their direction, according to the Tribune.
Vega, of suburban Calumet City, was hit in his head during the shooting. He was taken to Stroger Hospital in critical condition and died, authorities said.
Police have not said Vega shot at officers.
A gun was found at the scene. Two people were at large, while two other men were taken into custody and released without charges pending further investigation, officer Ronald Westbrooks said in an email.
The officers involved in the shooting will be placed on routine administrative duties for 30 days.
Searching For Answers
Vega’s family is trying to piece together the events that led up to his death. They’ve had sparse conversations with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which is investigating the shooting, and Maria Vega said her family has many unanswered questions about her son’s death.
“They haven’t told us anything,” Maria Vega said Wednesday.
Erik Vega echoed his mother’s frustration, saying the Chicago Police Department has not reached out to discuss the shooting, aside from a detective leaving a note at the family’s home hours after Miguel Vega was killed.
The family doesn’t think Miguel Vega had a gun the night of the shooting, noting the gun police said they found wasn’t with Vega’s body.
The gun was recovered from beneath a car, according to a tweet from Chicago Police spokesman Tom Ahern.
“If you have a weapon, you are going to drop it where they shot you,” Erik Vega said.
Erik Vega said his brother was visiting childhood friends from grammar school the night of the shooting.
“Sometimes you have good people, sometimes you have bad people in your circle. I’m guessing some bad apples were around him at that moment,” Erik Vega said earlier.
He wondered why police didn’t shoot his brother in his leg or arm to disarm him if he did have a gun. He wants to see body camera footage and tests for gun residue on his brother’s body.
While police have not discussed the shooting with the family, Erik Vega said officials with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability reached out and the agency is working to release the body camera footage to the family “as soon as possible.”
He said he believes the footage will vindicate his brother.
After the footage is made available to the family, Ephraim M. Eaddy, a public information officer for the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, said in an email the video of the shooting will be released to the public “within 60 days of the incident in accordance with the city’s video release policy.”
On 19th Street, friends and strangers told the Vega family they love them. Family members embraced each other as tears rolled down their faces.
“We want justice for our son,” Maria Vega said.
Miguel Vega’s family is raising money on GoFundMe to help pay for his funeral. During the vigil, Erik Vega thanked people for their support and donations.
In remembering his brother, Erik Vega said his brother wasn’t without faults, but he loved life and his family.
“It was tough love,” Erik Vega said. “He wouldn’t say ‘I love you’ as often as one should, but I know he loved us. And I sure as hell loved him … and he knows that.
“… It hurts we didn’t get to say goodbye the way we wanted. We didn’t know it would be the last day he would come home.”
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