Family members, community residents demand answers and justice for Miguel Vega

Protesters+gather+in+honor+of+Miguel+Vega%2C+a+26-year-old+man+who+was+killed+by+the+Chicago+Police+Department.+

Karina Mireya

Protesters gather in honor of Miguel Vega, a 26-year-old man who was killed by the Chicago Police Department.

Family members and community residents demand answers and the release of body cam footage after the shooting and killing of 26-year-old Miguel Vega by a CPD undercover police officer. 

On Saturday evening at the corner of 18th Street and Blue Island Avenue, relatives of Vega and community leaders gathered at Plaza Tenochtitlan to call for transparency and accountability at the #JusticeforMiguel rally. Hundreds of protesters, along with family members of Vega, marched throughout Pilsen shouting out the name of the now slain Latino man.  

Erik Vega, 20, the younger brother of Miguel Vega, spoke at the rally seeking for truth and justice on what occurred the night of Monday Aug. 31 when his older brother was shot on the 1300 block of West 19th Street.

The police department has not come out and spoke to us on what happened that night,” Erik said. “They are scared but the truth will come out sooner or later. The body cam will come out and will show that my brother did not do it. We will speak and we will seek justice until we get it.” 

According to the Chicago Police Department, officers were responding to a call from a neighbor reporting on a suspicious individual in the area.

Deputy Chief Daniel O’Shea said officers reported to the scene in an unmarked car when they came across a group of five standing on a sidewalk. As the officers tried to exit their vehicle, shots from the group were fired towards them, authorities said. Officers returned fire to the group and shot Miguel Vega behind the head. He was taken to Stroger Hospital where he died hours later.

Tom Ahren, CPD’s director of news affairs and communication, tweeted a photo of the alleged firearm of the offender found at the scene. CPD’s preliminary statement reports two individuals from the group were taken into custody.

The officers involved at the shooting are placed in administrative duties for 30 days and the Civilian Office of Police Accountability investigates the situation. CPD and Mayor Lori Lightfoot have not released any information on the officers who killed Vega.

It still remains unconfirmed on who fired the gun or if the group was armed.

Vega’s family is skeptical of CPD’s report and asks for release of the officer’s body cam footage from that night. The family believes Vega was unarmed as the firearm was found more than forty feet away from Vega’s body. 

“I am very angry that he has to go this way,” Erik said. “They were more people involved and yet the ones that were arrested that night were let go and I want answers to why did they let them go, why didn’t they keep them and look at their fingers for gun residue, why was any of that not done?”

The oldest of four, Vega was a brother, a son and a father. Raised in Pilsen but living with his parents in Calumet City, Vega was in the area the night of the shooting visiting childhood friends from elementary school. He now leaves two young boys and a grieving mother seeking for answers on what happened to her son. 

Relatives of Vega said in the rally that CPD has not addressed their unanswered questions or hasn’t reached out discussing the shooting. 

According to the Chicago Tribune, Vega had no record of gun charges and was not involved with gang activity. 

Byron Sigcho Lopez, alderman of Pilsen, addressed the crowd in the rally condemning the dehumanization of brown and black individuals within the community followed by a moment of silence for Vega and his family. 

“Only the truth will set all of us free,” Lopez said. “When we see the truth come out we will start healing. Time after time young people are victims of a rotten system, because our system is rotten to the core.” 

The rally of speakers followed an Aztec ceremony performance involving music, dances and sage to help bring cleansing and healing to the community and mourning family.

The rally began to  peacefully march down 18th Street shouting “We protect ourselves” and “Justice for Miguel Vega.”  

Despite the peaceful community protest, heavy police presence in riot gear was present throughout the march.   

Community leaders, activists, and speakers stood in solidarity with the family and offered their condolences as the march circled back to Plaza Tenochtitlan where the family stood in the middle of a circle surrounded by community supporters. 

“I’m sorry you have to be without a loved one and from the community I am here with you. I’m sorry you have to explain the death of their father to two kids,” said a community supporter who spoke on the condition of anonymity. 

Erik Vega shared his frustration and pain with the large presence of police officers urging his brother to be innocent and for answers from the police department. 

“I wish you were in my shoes, I wish you were feeling my pain, I don’t get to go home to see my brother sleep or talk to him but I’m pretty sure you do,” the person said to the crowd of police officers. 

“I’m still waiting to see if you want to show your faces and speak to my family on what happened that night. This isn’t like any other case because the police department knows my brother is innocent,” Erik said.