A Chicago officer who was fatally shot while off-duty over the weekend died while shielding his girlfriend from gunfire, police said Monday.
John Rivera, 23, was at a pizza restaurant with a co-worker, a friend and his girlfriend early Saturday morning in the city's River North neighborhood when a gunman opened fire on their vehicle as they left the restaurant.
Police believe the shooting was a case of mistaken identity, saying the gunman murdered "the first Hispanic man that he came into contact with" following an earlier and unrelated altercation.
In announcing charges against two suspects, Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said Rivera's killing was apparently the result of an incident that happened just blocks away from the restaurant where Rivera had been with friends.
Police said the gunman and a friend were involved in an altercation inside what was once known as Chicago's Rock N' Roll McDonald's downtown and is now the chain's flagship eatery at Clark and Ontario. The altercation involved a group of people from a party bus, described as Hispanic.
When the altercation turned physical, the gunman allegedly fled the scene only to return a short time later after the party bus had already left, authorities said.
That's when police say the gunman and two others began searching for the party bus and ultimately shot "the first Hispanic man that he came into contact with."
"He got into it with a group of Hispanics, there was a physical confrontation and he wound up murdering a Hispanic so I think that speaks for itself," Johnson said.
Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said those in the car told police Rivera was shot and killed while leaning over and shielding his girlfriend from the gunfire with his body.
Rivera was shot in the chest, arm and mouth and taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead, authorities said. Another 23-year-old man in the car was shot in his chest and arm and taken to Northwestern where he was in "critical but stable" condition and underwent surgery Saturday morning.
Another off-duty Chicago police officer and Rivera's girlfriend were not wounded in the shooting, officials said.
Rivera had been with the department for about two years, police said, and had worked his shift the night before, handling the paperwork on a murder case.
“This appears to be an unprovoked attack against a group of individuals who went out to unwind on a Friday night,” Johnson said at a news conference Saturday.
"There’s no problems, there’s no words exchanged,” Deputy Police Supt. Anthony Riccio told reporters.
The incident was captured on a CPD pod camera in the area and police said witnesses and license plate reader technology ultimately led to an arrest in the case.
Menelik Jackson, 24, and 32-year-old Jovan Battle, of Chicago's Little Village neighborhood, were both charged with one felony count of first degree murder and three felony counts of attempted murder, Chicago police said in a statement. Both were ordered held without bail Monday.
Jackson, of suburban South Holland, was also charged with resisting or obstructing a peace officer, according to police. He was later identified as the gunman in the shooting, Johnson said.
Police were still searching for a third person of interest Monday.
Jackson, who police say also confessed to the crime, was arrested using Rivera's handcuffs. Police said the alleged weapon used in the "senseless act" and the clothing Jackson was wearing during the shooting, were recovered from his apartment.
Johnson, whose son worked with Rivera in the 6th District, said the slain officer was "the kind of officer that we want in Chicago. Hard-worker, who loved going out on patrol and solving problems...he helped investigate a tragic murder, helped console a family on an unthinkable loss."
"My third watch is really struggling because he was such a good person," said Commander William Bradley with the department's 6th District.
A police procession escorted Rivera's body from the medical examiner's office to the Elmwood Funeral Home on the South East Side Sunday afternoon.
"He went out there every day trying to make this city safer," Bradley said.
A wake was tentatively scheduled to take place Thursday from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., with a funeral the next morning at 10 a.m. at Annunciata Church, located at 11128 S. Avenue G, according to the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation.