Suspect charged after Chicago officer dies after shootout

CHICAGO (AP) — A teenager was charged with first-degree murder and other counts Thursday after a Chicago police officer died from injuries suffered in a shootout, authorities said.

Steven Montano, 18, of Chicago, also was charged with two felony firearms charges and misdemeanor counts of assault and interfering with reporting domestic violence, the Chicago Police Department announced in a news release Thursday night.

Montano, who's in custody, is due in bond court Friday, the news release said.

It wasn't clear whether Montano had an attorney who might comment on the allegations against him.

The officer was shot several times Wednesday afternoon on the city’s Southwest Side, CPD Superintendent David Brown said. He was identified Thursday morning as Officer Andres Vasquez-Lasso, 32, by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.

An autopsy Thursday classified his death as a homicide because multiple gunshot wounds.

Brown said during a Wednesday news conference that the officer and the suspect exchanged shots “at close range" and the officer had wounded the suspect in the head.

Montano was hospitalized in critical condition as of Wednesday night. His condition was unavailable Thursday night.

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said earlier Thursday that Montano, who had no prior record, was given a personal recognizance bond after being charged on July 29, 2022, with misdemeanor resisting arrest for running from a vehicle that had been stopped by police. He completed 25 hours of community service, and the case against him was dismissed on Nov. 7.

Montano was a passenger in the vehicle in which the driver was charged with felony counts of illegal gun possession in a case that remains pending, the office said.

Vasquez-Lasso had five years on the job, Brown said. “He had a bright future ahead of him," the superintendent said.

The Chicago Police Department released a photo of Vasquez-Lasso on Thursday along with a statement saying that “he died while protecting Chicago and its people."

“We will never forget his selflessness and dedication as we continue to wrap our arms around his family and loved ones. Together, we mourn the loss of our hero,” the statement adds.

Vasqeuz-Lasso became the first Chicago officer to die in the line of duty since Officer Ella French, 29, was slain in August 2021 during a traffic stop shooting that also wounded her partner.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot appeared with Brown at the news conference, saying that, “Tragedy has befallen the Chicago Police Department and, really, the city.”

Vasqeuz-Lasso was fatally shot the same day that Brown announced he will step down in two weeks, seven months before he turns 63, the mandatory retirement age for Chicago police officers.

Brown announced his pending departure one day after Lightfoot failed to advance to next month’s mayoral runoff election after a primary election in which crime in the nation’s third-largest city was a central issue.

According to statistics posted on the Chicago Police Department’s website, the city saw an overall 41% increase in crime last year from 2021.

While Chicago's murders declined 14% in 2022 to 695, down from 804 in 2021, burglaries, robberies, thefts and motor vehicle thefts all increased last year. Motor vehicle thefts alone rose 102%, up from 10,590 in 2021 to 21,425 last year, while thefts increased 56%, from 12,978 in 2021 to 20,194 in 2022.