CHICAGO, Ill. (WTVO) — A man wearing a neon yellow “Peacekeeper” vest, worn by the city’s new violence-prevention team, has been charged after allegedly beating up and robbing a man in Chicago’s Little Village on Friday night.
More than 30 neighborhood “Peacekeepers” fanned out across Chicago’s most violence-prone neighborhoods, as part of a program funded by the Reimagine Public Safety Act, a $250 million anti-violence initiative created as a reaction to the murder of George Floyd. Cities nationwide began to rethink the role of law enforcement following nationwide protests and civil unrest over Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis Police officer.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker last week touted the Peacekeepers are part of a “community-focused” approach to addressing violent conflict, with members undergoing training in crowd de-escalation tactics, crisis intervention, and referrals to mental health or substance abuse programs.
According to Chicago Police, Oscar Montes, 31, and another man were seen on security camera footage beating a man seated in a car late Friday night in the 2300 block of South Washtenaw Avenue.
Police were called to the scene after officers spotted a large group of people fighting, according to CWBChicago.
Authorities said a 37-year-old man was pulled from his car by “multiple offenders,” one wearing a neon vest.
When officers arrived, Montes was seen walking away and trying to take off the vest, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The victim was hospitalized after the beating, which was reportedly so severe that he was “not capable” of signing a complaint against the suspects, due to his injuries, police said.
Montes was charged with aggravated battery, robbery, and vehicular invasion.
The other suspect has yet to be charged, but the police report accused both men of stealing the victim’s cellphone and wallet.
The Sun-Times reported that Montes was released from prison last May following a 2012 conviction for aggravated battery discharge of a firearm into an occupied vehicle. Authorities said the allegation stemmed from an incident involving a rival gang member, and he was initially charged with murder but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge and served 10 years of a 12 year sentence.
On Sunday, his defense attorney claimed that he is a certified emergency medical technician.
It was unclear which violence-prevention unit Montes was working for.
Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Human Services made the joint announcement of the Citywide Crisis Prevention & Response Unit (CPRU) on Thursday.
The CPRU is described as “a highly mobile team that is specifically designed to prevent violence and address conflict and crises in the City of Chicago.”
“The CPRU is an essential tool in keeping our communities safe because these individuals bring invaluable insight and knowledge that allow us to reduce conflict before it escalates, so we are proactive instead of reactive in addressing the causes of violent crime,” said Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson.
“This expanded training equips violence prevention coordinators to operate beyond their typical neighborhoods to address other areas of potential conflict or crisis, such as recent large teen gatherings in downtown Chicago or mass casualty events,” the governor’s office said in a press release.
As of Sunday, nine people have been killed and 34 wounded — including 3 teenagers and 2 toddlers — over the Memorial Day Weekend so far, according to police.