Gang member gets 27 years in prison for shooting, wounding three undercover officers

A South Side gang member was sentenced to 27 years in federal prison Wednesday for a brazen ambush shooting that wounded three law enforcement officers conducting an undercover investigation in Chicago’s West Pullman neighborhood.

Eugene McLaurin, 31, pleaded guilty last year to one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for the July 7, 2021, shooting along the onramp to Interstate 57 at Ashland Avenue, which badly injured two agents with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as well as a Chicago police officer who was detailed to their anti-violence task force.

In handing down the sentence, U.S. District Judge Manish Shah said that after looking at the officers’ bullet-ridden car, he found it “astonishing” that everyone survived. The judge said he found it particularly disturbing that McLaurin followed the officers’ car for up to 2 miles before taking up a “position” and shooting at it in a premeditated fashion.

“That act, and being willing and able to do it, it makes you murderous,” Shah said. “You didn’t kill anyone that day, but you were willing to.”

Shah’s courtroom as well as a nearby overflow room were packed with law enforcement officers in support of the three victims, who each gave emotional statements during the two-hour hearing about the lasting impact of McLaurin’s actions.

Calling it a “cowardly ambush,” one of the ATF agents who was shot, identified in court as Special Agent B, said he will forever be haunted by the popping and pinging sound of bullets “tearing through the sheet metal of my car,” the sharp pain of a bullet ripping through his shoulder, and the “hopeless feeling of being stuck in a small sedan” on a one-lane ramp with no way to escape the barrage.

“I was terrified that the next bullet would be the one that killed me,” the agent said.

The officers were fired on shortly before 6 a.m. while they were in an unmarked police vehicle on their way to conduct a joint investigation between Chicago police and the ATF that had nothing to do with McLaurin, court records show.

While conducting the investigation, the officers noticed that a white Chevrolet Malibu was following their unmarked law enforcement vehicle. The officers took down the license plate information but decided not to engage but just leave the area, according to prosecutors.

When the officers reached the ramp of I-57, the Malibu pulled up next to the vehicle and McLaurin, a member of the Gangster Disciples, rolled down the window, pointed a black Glock handgun at the officers and began shooting, according to prosecutors. All three officers were wounded and they drove to the Morgan Park police district for help.

“Looking down, I saw that my hand was blown open, spilling blood, exposing my bones and tendon,” the other ATF agent wounded in the attack, Special Agent A, recently wrote in a victim impact statement. “The pain was unbearable. I was terrified. Looking up, I saw that my other partner’s head was now bleeding. I feared the worst. It was a nightmare.”

After the shooting, McLaurin threw the gun in a sewer. The Malibu was later found parked in front of a residence in the 200 block of East 89th Street where McLaurin was spotted. The keys to the Malibu were later found hidden in the home’s dryer vent, according to court records.

After he was taken in for questioning, McLaurin told investigators that he opened fire on the officers’ Chrysler because he believed it belonged to a rival street gang.

In asking for a sentence of 35 years, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jared Jodrey said gang members like McLaurin are emboldened to use violence because they know the odds of getting caught are low.

“Something has to deter people like (McLaurin) from thinking they can just drive around the city shooting people,” Jodrey said. “This isn’t the O.K. Corral. You just can’t go driving around killing people because they drove through your neighborhood.”

McLaurin’s lawyer, Michael Baker, asked for the minimum of 20 years, saying the “odds were stacked” from the beginning against McLaurin, whose father went to prison for murder when McLaurin was a boy, leaving his mother struggling to raise a family and make ends meet in a neighborhood ruled by drugs and gang violence.

McLaurin himself has been shot twice, including in one incident where his girlfriend was killed, Baker said. He also lost a brother in a gang-related shooting.

McLaurin opted not to address the judge in court. In a letter to the court filed Wednesday, he reiterated his claim that he thought the officers were rival gang members, but added that either way, he was wrong and was “ready to accept my fate.”

“They were simply doing their job and didn’t deserve to be put in a life-threatening situation,” McLaurin wrote. “My lack of guidance, insecurities, lack of ambition, peer pressure, and bad influences has contributed to me being involved in criminal activity.”