Police arrest two mugging suspects

By Hassan S. Ali

Two men were arrested and charged on Wednesday in connection with 16 armed and attempted armed robberies in the Hyde Park area. Robbery victims positively identified the suspects, who police say are responsible for an increasingly violent crime spree that kept residents and police on edge between September 12 and October 27.

In what Chicago Police Department (CPD) officials called a “major arrest,” the suspects were identified as Deandre O’Neal, 17, and Darrien Russell, 20. The two men are cousins and live in the same house, located on the 300 block of East 69th Street.

Police officials were tipped off when residents who lived near the suspects found several wallets, purses, and other personal items in a nearby dumpster.

“The property had been discarded by the offenders,” said Commander Patricia Walsh of CPD’s Area 1 Detective Division. Police recovered the wallets and purses of two Hyde Park robbery victims, along with a wallet belonging to a robbery victim from the Beverly neighborhood, according to Walsh. “This was a major break in the case,” she said.

According to Walsh, police officials talked to local residents and quickly developed a photo spread of the suspects to distribute to members of the community. The 21st District Robbery Mission Team arrested O’Neal soon afterwards at a South Side courthouse, where he had appeared for an unrelated court case.

The CPD Gang Intelligence Unit tracked down and arrested Russell on a street near his home. The suspects did not resist either of the arrests, according to Walsh, who added that six of the robbery victims were called to police headquarters to identify the suspects in a police line-up. All six of the victims positively identified O’Neal in the line-up, and one of the victims identified Russell.

“The victims talked to the State’s Attorney’s Office, which had to decide whether there was enough evidence to go ahead with the case,” Walsh said. “In the end, they felt they had what they needed.”

Both men were charged with felony offenses: O’Neal was charged with six counts of armed robbery, and Russell was charged with one count of armed robbery.

The men will remain in custody at Cook County Jail until their first court date, which is yet to be determined.

Hank Webber, vice president for community and government affairs, called Wednesday’s arrests “a great breakthrough” toward resolving the nearly two-month-long spree of armed robberies. “The crime wave of the past month has been very unusual and very scary,” Webber said. “It is great news to report major progress.”

Walsh applauded the combined efforts of University Police and the Chicago Police Departments in making the latest arrests possible. “The University Police deployed extra manpower and was assisted by Chicago Police units,” Walsh said, adding that the investigation was a product of both organizations “working together.”

Despite the latest arrests, police officials encouraged residents to remain on alert. “The University population needs to be vigilant,” Walsh said. “We are still concerned.” Walsh noted that not all of the robbery victims identified the suspects in the police line-up, and that the CPD is still investigating the case.

“There is a third subject of interest that we are pursuing,” Walsh said, though she would not give more specific information that might jeopardize the investigation. “So, we still need everyone’s cooperation.”