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Off-duty cop kills beating suspect

2nd police shooting in 3 days; 7th in month

By Charles Sheehan and Christian Thiele
Tribune staff reporters

August 26, 2005

An off-duty police officer fatally shot one of three brothers who was beating a man with a bat, tire iron and a wheel lock early Thursday, police said.

It was the second shooting involving an off-duty officer in two days and the seventh person shot by police this month.

People looking down on the fracas from second- and third-floor apartments told police there was a brawl involving as many as eight people with metal tools and bats about 1:15 a.m. in the 3500 block of West Fullerton Avenue.

The tactical officer had just finished a shift and was driving east on Fullerton when he saw three men beating a man on the ground, said police spokesman Pat Camden.

"It was definitely gang-related," Camden said.

The officer stepped from his sport-utility vehicle, identified himself as a police officer and ordered the men to stop, Camden said.

The officer was wearing a Cubs jersey over his uniform, when he held out his badge and yelled, "Police, stop, police," Camden said.

One of the men attacked the officer, striking him in the head with a metal wheel lock, Camden said. The man reached back to swing the lock again when the officer shot him at close range, Camden said.

Witnesses said that the officer fell away from his attacker when he was struck and identified himself again, firing only when the man appeared to reach back to strike again.

Miguel Degante, 27, died from a gunshot wound in the neck, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office. The officer and the beating victim were treated and released, Camden said.

The officer "got out of his vehicle, he had no cell phone, and he stepped into a very dangerous situation because someone else could have been killed," Camden said. "The officer is a hero."

Degante's two brothers, 15- and 29-years-old, fled in a van. They were taken into custody about two blocks away by officers who said the van's windows were broken out, Camden said.

No charges had been filed as of Thursday evening.

Police believe the brothers are members of the Latin Kings and the man being beaten was an Imperial Gangster.

Degante's parents and another brother stood outside the police area headquarters at 5555 W. Grand Ave. Thursday and insisted that no one in the family belongs to a gang. Horatio Degante, 26, said he received a call from his older brother who was screaming, "The police shot my brother."

Miguel's father, Pedro, went to the hospital and police station.

"Nobody would tell me anything," he said. "We tried to get help from the Mexican Consulate, but they told us we had to talk to the police."

Miguel Degante had a wife, a 4-year-old daughter and an infant son, Pedro Degante said.

People living in the area said different gangs operate on each side of the avenue, but clashes are rare along Fullerton.

Police said there have been gangs in the area for years.

In 1976, an off-duty officer stepped from his car to intervene in a gang fight just yards from where Degante was killed. Officer Terrence Luftus was shot in the head and died two days later.

Wednesday's incident is among several involving police this month and the second this week. There is sometimes a spike in the number of shootings and then long stretches without any, Bayless said.

An off-duty police officer getting a haircut Tuesday in a South Side barbershop foiled a robbery attempt by a man who entered the shop with a snub-nose, .38-caliber revolver, police said. The alleged robber was shot in the arm and arrested by the officer, whose weapon was hidden under the barber's cape.

Two officers on Friday shot a man who allegedly was pointing a gun at them at 70th Street and Stony Island Avenue.

Two detectives and a plainclothes officer shot and killed a 25-year-old man on Aug. 8 when he brandished a gun, they said.

On Aug. 6, an off-duty officer shot a 19-year-old man who allegedly pointed a fake gun at him while trying to break into a car in the 7700 block of South Keating Avenue, police said.

Police shot a 19-year-old man on Chicago's West Side three days earlier after he fled from officers and then pointed a gun at them, police said.

A preliminary review of all police shootings earlier this month found that officers followed protocol, said police spokesman David Bayless. Results from the most recent shootings have not been released.

While the Office of Professional Standards could not immediately provide figures, Camden said there has been no discernible rise in the number of people shot by police this year compared with last.




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