BGA Report -- Part 1 Part 2
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Patent Malarkey: Public Dishonesty
The Browns Chicken Massacre
Staff Analysis by the Better Government Association
J. Terrence Brunner, Executive Director
Copyright © Better Government
This document is not to be reproduced without the express written
permission of the
Better Government Association. Extra copies of the BGA reports
are available for $10 upon request.
On January 9, 1993, seven people were found brutally murdered
in the Browns Chicken and Pasta in Palatine, Illinois. This
became known as the Browns Chicken Massacre. Nearly five
years later, the murders remain unsolved.
Patent Malarkey: Public Dishonesty and Deception:
It seemed like Jerry Bratcher had it made. As chief of Police,
his salary was $80,000 a year, and he oversaw an 80-man department
ranked as one of the best in the country. He had set up lucrative
outside consulting businesses analyzing other suburban police
departments. And the taxpayers were paying for his drinks, lunches
and dinners. No one would question any of it since he had also
become a consultant to Micro Asepticrun by the three village
trustees who also ran the police and fire committee. That, together
with his strong personal relationship with Mayor Rita Mullins,
compromised any real oversight of the Palatine Police Department
by the village government. It was all carefully hidden from the
taxpayers in a maze of governmental paper buttressed by a village
government who fought any citizen attempt to access these financial
Jerry Bratcher had created his own Feudal kingdom in Palatine.
Sure, there were a few underlying problems. His consulting and
Micro Aseptic sales both depended heavily on the the goodwill
of other suburban chiefs. So he had to constantly stroke them
while at the same time hiding from them the true nature and extent
of his business dealings and how they might affect the other chiefs.
While bragging about the academic achievements of his men, he
failed to mention he hired five or six chiefs kids
including his own. He also failed to mention he lost $125,000
in an Ponzi scheme which traded commodities.
Bratchers kingdom rested on a fragile foundation. He became
a prisoner of his own propaganda. He had to constantly exaggerate
and puff his own accomplishments and those of his police force
to keep his outside business interests rolling. Thus, Bratcher
pushed membership in the Northwest Police Academy (NWPA), argued
for CALEA accreditation, and promoted the use of the Northern
Illinois Police Crime Lab (NIPCL). He couldnt stop making
his sales pitch.
Bratcher also became a prisoner of his own sales pitch.
Bratcher ingratiated himself with his fellow chiefs and promoted
his business interests at the same time. The chiefs provided a
potential market of more than 100 suburban police forces to which
he could offer his consulting services or sell his line of Micro
Aseptic products, which could provide everything for a police
department from soap to special shoes. Bratcher founded the NWPA,
a forum which enhanced the international reputation of the Palatine
Force and himself. He later used the academy to branch out into
politics endorsing his friend Jack OMalley. Indeed, Bratcher
had employed a full-time PR person for his small-time Police Department.
Additionally, the sons of various police chiefs were employed
by the Palatine Police Department.
It was working. Eventually, Good Housekeeping magazine would cite
the Palatine Police Department as one of the 10 best in the nation.
On paper, Bratcher had a superior department. Palatine was not
just the normal, under-equipped suburban police force. Many chiefs
told us the crime at Browns Chicken and Pasta on January
8, 1993 was a terrible tragedy. But thank God it happened
in Palatine. They knew Bratcher worked with CALEA, which
certified suburban police departments, but were unaware that his
CALEA connection was at the heart of the Good Housekeeping ranking.
Jerry Bratcher had carefully constructed a house of cards. It
was held together by the spiderweb of personal relationships he
had built with other chiefs and with the village government. An
unsuspecting media and citizenry stood by, never noticing the
personal stakes Bratcher had invested with the mayor, village
board, and states attorneys office. No one ever questioned
any of them about their objectivity or the inevitable conflicts
which grew out of these relationships. No one questioned any of
them about their non-governmental business. Bratcher was employed
as a consultant by three of the village trustees who ran Micro
Aseptic. Because of his business relationships with the trustees
and his long personal relationship with the mayor, he had effectively
neutralized anyone who would be in a position to question his
conduct. That connection which James Madison and Thomas Jefferson
thought crucialbetween the citizens and their elected representatives
and employeeswas crushed.
Of course, there were serious flaws: the underlying lack of murders
in Palatine. As good as Bratchers force looked on paper,
there was an absence of homicides to investigate. It was impossible
for investigators to get the real homicide experience they needednot
unusual for a suburban police force.
But what would happen if a real homicide were to occur? How would
Bratchers troops perform in a real murder investigationif
an O.J. Simpson-style case were to be dropped in his lap?
Bratchers troops were like the Argentine Armygenerals
with chests full of medals who had never seen combat and suddenly,
the Falklands, and it all began to crumble against the battle-tested
What would he do? He had told everyone over and over again how
great he was. How would they handle it?
The bodies were discovered at 3:11 a.m., after five hours of Palatine
police officers falling all over themselves while terrified relatives
stood by, waiting for action. Within an hour and a half
I had more than 20 investigators assembled. And a lot of experienced
homicide investigators.” This is what Jerry Bratcher told
Under the careful scrutiny of our investigation, that and many
other statements made by Bratcher would prove to be utterly false.
At 5 a.m ., the investigation was in the hands of three men.
Sgt. John Koziol, who had worked on only one murder caseLyng.
In that case, there was no body, no crime scene and a witness
who came forward 15 years later. Koziol confessed his lack of
ability to organize the many aspects of the investigation. He
was too busy picking up ringing phones to take a lead ...
made arrangements with [our] lab people to have them process the
crime scene, spoke to evidence technicians, maintaining the information
coming in ... had to get officers assigned to handle the families.
Big part of [our] time was spent trying to identify people.”
Koziol, nevertheless, would be placed in charge.
Investigator Bryan Opitz had never been responsible for a murder
case. Hed only worked on one murderhed done
surveillance in the Lyng case. Opitz would be placed in charge
Sgt. Bob Haas had no prior detective work experience as he was
in field operations, assigned as liaison to the local high school.
For the first hour-and-a-half he was in charge of the crime scene.
Ultimately, Haas was placed in charge of all field investigations.
These were the officers there that night at hour one. By 6 oclock
that morning, were there, as Bratcher suggests, 20 investigators
long on homicide experience?
This was a Palatine show in those first days. Bratcher wanted
to solve the crime and believed he could do it. They had a suspect
early on. Bratcher didnt need outside expertise. He bought
into his own propaganda.
Should I have been calling in other people? If theres
anything worse than not having enough people on a case like this
its having too many, stumbling over each other, confusing
the issue, going in all directions. The responsible thing to do,
as we did, was to expand the investigation as the need occurred.
So at 6 oclock that morning, Commander Marek of the Cook
County Sheriffs Police (CCSP) sat in Palatine and tried
to remember who was working that night. Bratcher needed
warm bodies, not experienced homicide investigators. He never
asked for themit was a Palatine operation. The CCSP was
strictly there in a support role. It wasnt their crime so
they werent going to call guys in.
Personnel from the CCSPMueller, Smith, Russell, Medrys (who
had some investigative experience) and Alvarado (they needed a
Hispanic), showed in response to Mareks call for help. They
were used to flesh out the interviews by Palatine investigators
that first day. They began arriving between 5 and 5:30 a.m. in
response to a call from dispatch.
The very-experienced Commander Frank Braun was also present to
lead the county people. By 9 a.m. Saturday, there were eight CCSP
to help Palatine. They were not a crack homicide team, though
a few had some experience. There are some experienced homicide
investigators in the county, but nothing like Chicago,
one county veteran told us. The gathered CCSP simply reflected
who had been on duty that Friday night. They, together with Palatine,
did not compose the 20 assembled investigators, many with homicide
experience, about whom Bratcher bragged.
Bratcher was fresh, clean and pressed, compared to the rumpled
crew who had been pulled out of bed at 3 a.m., or those coming
off the night shift. He seemed happy. One investigator thought
it strange. This was going to make national, even international,
news and he seemed happy ... He looked like a guy that had taken
the time to shower, clean up, and come to work, unlike everyone
else who looked tired and somewhat thrown together. Bratcher
looked good. I thought maybe he had a place to clean up
at the station.
The county people were there to assist, not do the primary investigating.
It was pretty clear that they wanted to solve the crime
quickly. At the Saturday morning meeting, they had already
come up with former Browns employee Martin Blake as a suspect.
We thought it was two or three killers and two or three
guns with reloads. People started to talk about the wound
on Browns owner Mrs. Ehlenfeldts neck, speculating
that it was there because the killers were trying to force her
to open the safe. Several wondered that if Blake did it, then
who was he with? Some guys thought it was a robbery gang
... sort of random ... but Palatine focused on Blake pretty solidly.
Bratcher had his suspect and a chance for Palatine to solve the
horrendous murders quickly, with all the glory to reflect on the
merits of the department and Jerry Bratcher. But Bratcher was
nervous. He said something odd.
It had better be Blake or we have a real problem ... You
know if you have seven bodies and no suspects the press will eat
Everyone felt that Palatine was running the show and they wanted
a quick solution. Were the people Bratcher spoke so highly of
present at that first Saturday meeting? The experienced homicide
detectives long on investigative experience? No. One county investigator
told the BGA, The county brought in guys who were good,
but Palatine was in charge and they didnt have anybody like
Bratcher had all his marbles on Blake as a suspect. Bratcher was
the general riding into battle, dependent on his inexperienced
troopsKoziol, Opitz and Haas. A look at all the interviews
conducted in those first two days reveal Palatine in charge. Indeed,
they conducted every major interview.
Could Bratchers inexperienced troops pull it together or
would their inexperience do them in? It didnt take long
to find out.
A witness had come forward. She had seen a man in the restaurant
and could describe him. Dave Fanning, a young Palatine investigator,
was assigned to the lead. He went to the witness home at
11 a.m. on Saturday. Detective Fanning showed her a series of
photos. The witness hesitatedshe couldnt ID Blake.
But Fanning said, Well, who looks most like the man you
saw? To which the woman answered, Well, of these hes
the closest. It was Blake.
Fanning went back to the station and shouted, She IDd
Blake. She picked Blake out of a photo spread.
In Fannings written report, he said nothing about the witness
initial hesitancy and inability to identify Blake. Fanning wanted
Blake to fit and he fit him. Palatine was now off and running,
chasing Blake. For two days, Bratcher wasted all his resources
on a fruitless attempt to make Blake their killer. Surveillance,
arrest, search, interrogation, lie detector test and finally a
line-up where the witness once again said, as she had said all
along, Hes not the man.
The woman called Fanning at 7 p.m. on Sunday to tell him this.
She ultimately believed that the man she had seen was one of the
It was Monday afternoon and Bratcher had to let Blake go. He had
wasted three days chasing Blake and now he had, as Koziol later
pointed out, no suspects. In the meantime, the crime
scene was slowly being processed. They had a contract with
Northern Illinois Police Crime Lab. Bratchers friend,
Chief Bonneville was an officer and would later become president.
The canvass had never been completed. The most fundamental investigative
techniques had been dropped while Bratcher used all his best people
on Blake. It turned out to be a tragic mistake.
Bratcher had called in no new troops. No experienced homicide
investigators. He explained it this way: As early as Sunday,
while we still had that suspect, I was reaching out to the FBI,
I was reaching out to other agencies but telling them, ‘Thank
you for your offers of support and well be calling on you,
but well be calling on you as the need arises.
Indeed, early Saturday morning, the Chicago Superintendent of
Police had offered Chief Bratcher help including use of the highly-respected
Chicago Crime Lab. Bratcher later said that hed never use
that lab, They lose stuff.
Chief Bratcher didnt see any need in those first three days.
Admittedly and clearly there were strong indicators on the
first suspect and we followed those. We would have been irresponsible
not to. And the last chapter of that hasnt been written
Three crucial days had passed. Bratcher was back to square number
one. His young, inexperienced personnel had failed him at three
Officer Bonneville of Palatine had a reputation as a screw-up.
He was on the force because he was a chiefs kid.
Coming off a 30-day suspension, Bonneville had blown the opportunity
to uncover the crime quickly when he was dispatched to do a well-being
check on Browns employee Michael Castro. The Castros, who
were on the scene earlier that Friday night concerned about their
missing son, said Bonneville never got out of the car to check
the restaurant. Months later, many police talking among themselves
said they didnt believe it. This appears to be correct.
Had he tried the doors he would have found the open one, and the
crime. His report, however, said that he had tried all the doors
of the restaurant and found them all locked. Clearly, Bonneville
had filed a false report.
Sgt. Koziol, hand-picked by Bratcher, characterized his role as,
I was in the stage of orchestrating the entire organization
... never got around to organizing a canvass,the most
basic, elementary aspect of scene investigation. Right at the
top with crime scene protection.
And finally, Fanning mishandled their key witness, sending them
on a wild three-day chase of Blake. He had clearly exaggerated
her positive identification of Blake in his written police report.
But Bratcher, who would later rail against witnesses who filed
false information, rushed to defend his men. Palatine PR man Walt
Gasior attacked the relatives of the victims who said that Officer
Bonneville never got out of his car to check the restaurant. He
criticized the Chicago Tribune for suggesting that the canvass
was not completed. Of course, no one knew about Detective Fannings
false report. That, along with the identity of Bonneville and
his inaccurate report, remained carefully hidden.
Bratcher told the skeptical media on January 24, 1993, that, Someday,
sometime in the not too distant future, youll be able to
objectively evaluate this officers response. And I dont
think its going to be an issue. This was nonsense.
Bratcher was sitting there with Bonnevilles false report.
And then there was the lab. Bratchers men had wasted precious
time on Blake, failed to canvass effectively and had no suspects,
but there was still the possibility that an analysis of the crime
scene would produce key evidence.
Bratcher once again had all his eggs in one basket: the Northern
Illinois Police Crime Lab. Would they come through when others
had failed? Chief Bratcher, along with other suburban chiefs,
had put together the lab. They paid yearly dues, more then $50,000
total in Palatines case; his friend Chief Bonneville was
an officer and later president. The NIPCL had trained the Palatine
evidence technicians. Once again, everything was resting on the
cozy system Bratcher and the other suburban chiefs had set up.
Unfortunately, the lab proved the be a disaster. Mobs of people
tramped through the crime scene, oil from the crackle box was
accidentally turned on flooding the floor. Understaffed, underqualified
and unprepared, they failed to print one of the bodies, left some
of the victims clothing hung for weeks in the Palatine station,
found almost no relevant prints and, although they took out bags
of evidence, almost none were usable and relevant. Interns worked
on prints, the analysis dragged on for monthsthey were still
eliminating latent prints in August 1994and, at one point
in March 1994, computers lost all of the database crime analysis
that had been gathered. On top of that, the lab had never been
accredited. At one point they chose to make analysis of North
suburban bird droppings a priority over the Palatine murder evidence.
Ultimately, two of the four technicians who worked on the Browns
murders would be fired for incompetence.
On February 21, 1993, an article appeared in the Southtown Economist
entitled, Lab Hinders Palatine Probe, which uncovered
the labs incompetence. It noted that the lab had only recently
begun to compare prints, ... Law enforcement sources say
the delay is primarily due to the Palatine Task Forces almost-total
reliance for evidence-processing on a north suburban crime lab
set up by a consortium of suburban police departments, and the
crime labs minimal use of help offered by more experienced
crime labs run by Chicago and state police.
Bratcher, leaping to support the lab said that the allegations
of lab incompetence were patent malarkey. The Southtown
article said Bratcher went further to say that fingerprints and
other evidence were being processed slowly using complex laboratory
procedures to ensure nothing is missed. Bratcher said,
I stand by the crime lab ... It may not be as big as others,
but its staffed by professional people and theyre
doing it right.
This was one of the most outrageous examples of the chiefs
deliberate misleading of the media and the public. Bratcher later
hosted a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the lab in Palatine.
The minutes of that meeting noted: Chief Bratcher addressed
the attendees about an incident of negative press the lab received
on the Browns case. He stated in no way would the attitude
of the media be interpreted as his. He is very satisfied with
the work the lab has completed and so informed the source.
Well aware of the horrendous mistakes in securing the crime scene
and evidence gathering process, he chose to lie and cover up the
situation in order to hide the consequences of his own terrible
mistake in choosing that lab as opposed to the others availableobviously,
the state and Chicago. He never blinked. It was really his lab.
At the one-year point, he again defended the lab in a wave of
hyperbole unusual even for Bratcher. In a Daily Herald article,
he suggested that this was the best processing of a crime scene
ever. I dont believe that there has ever been a crime
scene search that was conducted in a more painstaking, meticulous
manner than this. As a matter of fact, I doubt very much that
there has been a more meticulous crime scene search.
Ultimately a key lab official would assert that this crime will
never be solved by physical evidence, even though, when police
have nothing else, they then hope the lab will bail them out.
Finally, Chief Bratcher withheld his lab payment because of their
incompetence, the lab threatened to sue Palatine for its $50,000
share. Bratcher quietly settled for $25,000 and everything was
swept under the rug.
It was now day four and Bratcher had no choice but to reach out.
The state had volunteered detectives and analysts. Bratcher called
the FBI and other suburban departments. One homicide detective
and a detective division administrative sergeant from Chicago
arrived on Wednesday. They were of an extraordinary quality. Many
excellent field investigators from neighboring communities also
arrived in Palatine.
The new additions to the emerging Task Force had no choice now
that the trail was coldthey began to canvass. A tip came
in from the county jail.
Reynaldo Aviles, facing long imprisonment, said hed had
a conversation with his associate from the Puerto Rican (PR) Stones
gang, Jose Cruz. Aviles said Cruz told him that he was responsible
for the Browns incident. That there had been a fight
and shit had to be done.
Pat OBrien, never an investigator but assigned as legal
advisor to the Task Force by States Attorney Jack OMalley,
never believed the story. But in January 1993, OBrien wanted
to obtain a judicial overhear to listen in on further jailhouse
conversations between Aviles and Cruz. Aviles was told not to
talk to Cruz in the interim.
The lead was assigned by John Robertson of the States Attorneys
office to Richard Zuley. Kevin Kavanaugh, OMalleys
chief investigator, now in tactical command with Koziol, would
later attempt to question Lead 80 suspects with Robertson.
Zuley was a top Chicago homicide detective who had solved some
of the citys most notorious murders, including the Dantrell
Davis sniper murder and the young woman at the ATM machine. Fowler
was a highly-respected officer from Skokie. He was brought into
the lead because of the PR Stones involvement in a Skokie
armed robbery. They worked alongside Vic Valdez, an experienced
investigator from the Illinois State Police.
When they began to debrief Aviles, the investigators quickly learned
that he had violated OBriens admonition. Aviles had
talked to Cruz again who said that he didnt want to discuss
Palatine further. The investigators pressed Aviles for information
and he told them that he and Cruz had participated in a string
of armed robberies. The gang was branching out to the suburbs,
where there was more reward and less risk, in order to put together
money for a dope buy.
To test Aviles veracity, they asked for details of the robberies.
Aviles also set forth Cruzs M.O., much of which fit the
Browns job exactly. Cruz used a .38. He wore gloves. He
liked to fire and reload. He carried extra ammo and picked up
the shell casings. One experienced Chicago Police officer called
carrying extra ammunition really rare, just like a finger
Zuley, Valdez and Fowler quickly pushed on. Aviles information
on the robbery at the Irish Wolfhound saloon checked. So did his
description of the robbery at the Captain Video store. There was
a striking resemblance to Palatine. The robbers came in at closing
time, marched an employee into the basement, and forced the female
manager at gunpoint to open the cash register. Clearly, they were
on to something.
Aviles described yet another robbery, this one a bakery in Skokie.
By this point they wanted surveillance on Cruz, but Kavanaugh
said, No, you dont have enough probable cause for
a surveillance. He was told you dont need probable
cause for surveillance, you use surveillance to get probable cause.
They had civilian state cars ready. They questioned the manager
of the Burger King Aviles had said the gang had cased for a robbery
through a friend of his girlfriend, who worked in the store. Aviles
girlfriend confirmed the story.
Fowler got a surveillance van from Northbrook. Chicago Gang Crimes
confirms that Cruz is a stone-cold killer. Investigators
were excited, but they couldnt put together the Skokie job.
Fowler suddenly recalled that the Skokie joint was not a restaurant
but the King David Bakery. It all began to click.
They went back to Kavanaugh, informing him that the surveillance
was set. They had found the suburban robbery. No,
Kavanaugh said. Prove these guys did the robbery.
Zuley, Fowler, Valdez and others began to question Kavanaughs
competence. Any first-year law student knows that you use surveillance
to develop probable cause, not the other way around. But Kavanaugh
had been an administrator. He lacked an investigative background.
He had worked at Chicagos Internal Affairs Division where
you must have probable cause before doing surveillance on policemen
for corruption. Was he confused? The investigators began to lose
confidence in Bratchers command.
Pat OBrien was highly controversialhe was a lawyer,
not an investigator. Koziol was woefully inexperienced and now
Kavanaugh was taking stupid positions publicly. Their authority
Fowler remembered his witness at the King David Bakery. He went
over the facts with the robbery victim, and everything Aviles
had said checked out. The witness was Mexican, and he said a Puerto
Rican robbed him of his paycheck. He could tell because the robber
was speaking Puerto Rican Spanish. Aviles had said that Cruz tried
to cash the bakery employees paycheck.
Fowler went back to Kavanaugh. He had proven the gang had done
a suburban robbery. Kavanaugh said, Prove Cruz did the robbery.
Fowler went back to his witness. He picked Cruzs photo out
of a line-up.
Now, OBrien and the command were interested but skeptical.
They had to pick up Cruz since he was an armed robber and a murder
suspect. But OBrien insisted that Fowlers witness
be brought to Rolling Meadows so he could personally check him
out before authorizing a request for an arrest warrant.
To obtain a warrant based on Aviles story, it had to be
corroborated. The investigators had done that and produced a witness
with a positive ID. But Aviles veracity was a crucial link
in the chain of evidence.
OBrien talked to the witness, became convinced he was telling
the truth and obtained a warrant for Cruzs arrest at Fowlers
request. OBrien was vouching for the informant Aviles
credibility with the court.
The command put together plans for Chicago Gang Crimes to arrest
Cruz on a Skokie robbery case and turn him over to Kavanaugh and
Palatine. Bratchers desire to have Palatine and the States
Attorney solve the case and gain the credit was evident.
But again, inexperience and a lack of effective leadership intervened.
Zuley called the command. Theres nothing happening
... you dont have to come in, MacGregor from Palatine
Police Department told him. Zuley, Valdez and Fowler had put together
this key lead with no encouragement and over the objections of
OBrien and Kavanaugh. Now the command was cutting them out
so they could get the glory.
No one foresaw the consequences of that harmless phone call, but
it precipitated a mutiny and an explosion right in the center
of Bratchers self-proclaimed greatest task force ever.
Zuley and Fowler immediately decided that these people are
nuts and they began to put together an end run around them.
Fowler pointed out to Kavanaugh that it was a Skokie case, that
he Valdez and Zuley had the background information necessary to
interrogate Cruz, and that he would have a Skokie car present
to take Cruz to Skokie after the arrest by Gang Crimes on his
Kavanaugh relented. But that evening as the investigators prepared
to put together the arrest at the 24th District station, Zuley
and Kavanaugh went nose to nose in front of 40 assembled law enforcement
officers. They had to be separated, screaming and shouting, before
blows were thrown.
Fowler made the same argument to Kavanaugh that evening.
The actual arrest was routine. Cruz was transported to Skokie.
Kavanaugh and his deputy Robertson showed up later. But while
Fowler questioned Cruz, Kavanaugh was made to wait in the station
house. He left some time after midnight, seething.
This was insubordination, clean and simple. A turf war over credit
at its nastiest. Zuley and Fowler were using their experience
in the intricacies of law enforcement to show Kavanaugh, Koziol
and Bratcher how the game is played.
Skokie warrant, Skokie station, Skokie rules. This infuriated
Kavanaugh and set in motion events which have yet to be fully
played out as of this day. A fissure split right through the heart
of Bratchers Task Force.
It took six hours of questioning Cruz and his sidekick Sanchez
for Cruz to confess to the Skokie robbery. Zuley and Fowler worked
all night and into the morning to get him to admit to a crime
that they had him cold on. Everyone was worn out. It was time
to take Cruz to Palatine and talk about the murders.
When they arrived that afternoon in Palatine, there was little
enthusiasm. At the earlier meeting prior to the arrest, OBrien
had reiterated his objections. I just cant see a Puerto
Rican gang in the suburbs. OBrien wasnt around
that afternoon. He and Bratcher had a dinner to go to.
Zuley, Fowler, Russell and Valdez began the questioning. But they
stopped early to go get dinner for the prisoners and to discuss
progress and tactics. When they left, the remaining investigators
Koziol and Robertson went in and began interrogating Cruz, a breach
of police etiquette in any station house in America. A senior
Task Force leader who saw them go in said, this could mean
When Zuley, Valdez, Fowler and Russell returned, Koziol announced,
Were letting him go. I looked in his eyes and he didnt
Zuley went crazy. How many gang banging, murdering, robber
Puerto Ricans have you ever interviewed? he asked. None,
Koziol stated. But I went to the John Reid School of Interrogation.
Everyone stood there aghast.
One of Bratchers inexperienced people had done it again.
But Kavanaughs anger was the motivating force.
Bratchers Task Force was disintegrating before his eyes,
right in his own station house. Open warfare had broken out, with
OBrien, Kavanaugh and Koziolthe commandon one
side and Zuley, Fowler, representatives of the state, county and
Chicago Gang Crimes on the other.
It was a mutiny, plain and simple, and Kavanaugh was putting it
down. This was a question of who was in charge, who was running
the investigation. What was happening flew in the face of all
hed learned at the Chicago Police Department. Kavanaugh
was, after all, Chief Investigator of the States Attorneys
Office, in charge of 140 people. Could a detective from Chicago
and one from Skokie take him and make a fool of him in front of
40 assembled law enforcement officers and get away with it?
Cruz was transported to Skokie and booked for the King David Bakery
On the following day, the 27th, Cruz asked to speak to Zuley.
Before Zuley arrived, Longos from Chicago Gang Crimes was asked
by Cruz how he was caught and tied in to Palatine. He suggested
that perhaps Cruz had been caught on videotape in Palatine.
Cruz burst out, Man, there were no fucking cameras in that
When Zuley arrived he found Cruz emotional and frightened, concerned
for the safety of his common-law wife and children. He said he
couldnt sleep and was having nightmares about what happened.
According to Cruz, things were so bad he was contemplating suicide.
Cruz began to weep.
Look, man, I didnt do it but man, they didnt
have to shoot them allthey shot all of them, they shot five
in one place and two in the other and all they got was chump change.
They only got chump changearound $900 or $1100. There was
a fight and they killed them all.
The detectives asked Cruz who did it if he didnt. He said
he was in his apartment and his roommates started talking about
Palatine, about having done the murders. Cruz said they were from
the TJOs gang, and that he was scared.
Cruz went on to provide a physical description of Manny Castro,
the father of one of the victims, stating that they had purchased
guns from him. Cruz denied that he had talked to Aviles on the
phone. He later said, prove to me that I spoke to Aviles
and we can talk.
It was time to send Cruz to court. Zuley gave up on the questioning.
It was recalled that before confessing to the King David job,
Cruz had indicated early in the questioning that he knew what
happened, but that he had remained in the car while Aviles robbed
the employee in the alley. It was only after almost six hours
of intense questioning that he admitted to being the one to put
the gun to the victims head.
Now, while confirming many of Aviles allegations, Cruz was
once again indicating knowledge of key elements of the crime and
his proximity to it. However, he distanced himself and suggested,
as he had in the Kind David case, that it was in fact others who
actually committed the crime. There was a pattern to his denials.
His roommates turned out to be Huber and Deering, who were picked
up by Koziol and Robertson on the 30th. Zuley and Fowler were
told by Koziol that, having been interviewed, both men appeared
to be uninvolved. Gang intelligence confirmed extensive records
for violent criminal behavior and recent release from the penitentiary.
Huber told Zuley that Cruzs common-law wife Stacy Hall had
been in Chicago on Friday night, January 8, driving her silver
‘85 Ford Thunderbird with four headlights and Wisconsin
plates. Huber said Cruz was using her car that Friday.
This was Fowler and Zuleys last contact with the investigation.
Furious, Bratcher was later to say of Zuley, I hate that
son of a bitch. He dispatched the investigators off of Lead
80 to work for a sergeant much their junior in terms of experience.
Fowler walked away in disgust, telling his Skokie superiors, These
people are fucking nuts.
Bratcher said he fired Zuley for leaking information to the press.
He never presented evidence of this, nor did our staff ever uncover
any evidence to support Bratchers charge.
Life at the Task Force seemed to return to normal. The command
thought they would be able to continue to investigate Lead 80
without the rebellious insubordination of Zuley and Fowler.
PR man Walt Gasior even put out a new release, bragging of the
wondrous cooperation on the Task Force. The media bought in and
the insurrection was swept under the rugor so it seemed.
The Palatine Investigative Task Force is being directed
by Palatine Police Chief Jerry Bratcher. In that role, Chief Bratcher
assesses and determines the strategies of the major case investigation;
reviews all plans that will impact on the investigation and reviews
all plans for media relations and the release of information.
The Palatine Investigative Task Force has been staffed with more
that 75 officers, investigators, analysts and other support staff.
All was quiet again on the Task Force. But the crime was still
After they leftZuley, Fowler, and Valdezthey put together
a final report called Lead Number 80, which encompassed
the interrogation of Cruz and Sanchez through the questioning
of Huber and Deering on the 30th. Lead 80 was a nine-page document
authored by the three investigators and typed by Zuley.
In some respects, the report was important for what it did not
contain. It did not refer to the early memos of Aviles recounting
of prior armed robberies performed with Cruz or to the painstaking
investigation and complete corroboration of Aviles statements.
Nor does the report mention the manager of a fast food joint who
confirmed the relationship of Aviles girlfriend and his
employee. Aviles had said theyd cased the place for another
robbery just like the one at the Captain Video store, both with
the same M.O. as Browns. The manager had even placed Aviles
in the restaurant. The memo did not set forth the details used
as the basis for Cruzs arrest with the court, explaining
Fowlers request for a warrant and other key elements, such
as the link between victim Castros father and the suspect
The Lead 80 report was sent to the Task Force that February, and
the information became part of their internal records.
But the memo was detailed enough to cause a minor media explosion
when Chuck Goudie put it on the air that summer on WLS-Channel
The Task Force hated Goudie. They had placed his picture on the
wall along with the mug shots of various criminals. Bratcher had
early on chosen favorites in the media to leak to, giving them
self-serving information. He loved certain reporters including
Jay Levine at Channel 2 and other reporters. They saw things Bratchers
way. These reporters didnt believe a Puerto Rican gang could
possibly commit robberies in the suburbs, which had been OBriens
position all along.
But one of Aviles relatives lived close to Palatine, in
Wheeling. Unbeknownst to Levine and others, Chicago Gang Crimes
had put together an elaborate intelligence analysis and display
of the suburban activities and ringleaders of the PR Stones.
Bratcher tantalized his favorite media partners with tidbits of
information, holding long interviews exalting the virtues of the
Task Force, such as the one with John Carpenter of the Daily Herald
on January 24, 1993. And, hungry for any news of the seven murders,
they carried it all.
The reporters were completely in the dark concerning the string
of robberies so strikingly similar to Palatine that were committed
by Aviles and Cruz. The Lead 80 document in their possession contained
none of this, so Goudies story died when other media outlets
treated it lightly.
The Task Force put out another mundane release, presumably cleared
by OBrien, reiterating his early opinion that Aviles was
not a truthful source. Of course, this was wildly inconsistent
with OBriens previous endorsement of Aviles
information before the court, which was necessary to obtain the
initial arrest warrant for Cruz.
But the Chicago media went back to sleep quickly and no one dug
deeply into the story.
Bratcher had cooled out the situation. No one knew about the mutiny
and the Lead 80 document merely hinted at it. The investigators
werent talking. Goudie couldnt get anyone to come
forward, certainly not the authors of the report, who wouldnt
even confirm whether or not they had written it.
Kavanaugh was enraged. He suspected the investigators of leaking
the document to embarrass himself and the Task Force.
He went crazy.
Kavanaugh began by writing letters to the state, Skokie and Chicago
departments, demanding disciplinary action against Zuley, Fowler
and Valdez. The state laughed it off. Skokie told him to shove
But Kavanaugh had been at Chicagos IAD. He knew how to manipulate
the system. Would he do it in order to vent his anger against
A Chicago detective had taken on the States Attorneys
Chief Investigator and a Chicago Police lieutenant at that. Kavanaugh,
an extremely proud man, wanted vengeance.
Would he work the system to carry out his own personal vendetta
against Zuley? Certainly. Everyone knows that the policies of
the Chicago PD are hardball. Indescribably petty,
bitter grudges go on for years. Careers are damaged and lives
ruined over turf battles.
Kavanaugh had Zuley brought up on charges of writing an unauthorized
report. Zuley, a consummate player, fought back. The report was
completely accurate and both Skokie and the state backed him up.
The incredibly arcane process worked slowly. Unwilling to accept
token punishment, Zuley won completely, and walked away unscathed.
But Kavanaugh wasnt finished. He went to the States
Attorneys Public Integrity Unit. He wanted them to open
a criminal case against Zuley. In the criminal justice system,
the police watch everyone with an intelligence system rivaling
the KGBthe Russian Secret Police. Nothing goes unnoticed.
For the States Attorneys office to attack a working
Chicago homicide detective, especially one with Zuleys brilliant
reputation (he had solved a string of heater casesthe
woman at the ATM machine, the Loyola student shot in an alley,
and the Dantrell Davis case), was not only unheard of but close
to internal suicide.
The States Attorney depends on these detectives to testify
in their most important cases. Yet one veteran States Attorney
said, Hell, 25% of the homicide detectives are under investigation
by IAD at any one time.
The old pros in Public Integrity listened to Kavanaugh. But after
reading Lead 80, they said, It looks like this guy solved
Palatine. No, Kavanaugh responded, I want
him charged. They laughed and told Kavanaugh to forget it.
Kavanaugh wasnt through. He still had enormous clout within
the States Attorneys office. If he couldnt get
him indicted, there were other ways to damage Zuley.
Kavanaugh went to the attorneys in the sniper murder of Dantrell
Davis, telling them that Zuley was under investigationhe
was ultimately cleared. This investigation was potential Brady
material reflecting on his credibility, which had to be turned
over to the defense. In an unprecedented act, the States
Attorney risked the Davis case by communicating this information
to Judge Strayhorn, so deep was Kavanaughs anger.
The old-timers in the States Attorneys office were
One veteran thought Zuley, a good detective. Someone
had a hard-on for Zuley because you never bring up internal affairs
to judges or defense attorneys. He had never seen this done
before. If the IAD was successful, a detective would have
to find other work.
Another said, I cant imagine that even OMalley
would go after a detective like Zuley because you didnt
like the way he had written a report.
Many States Attorneys felt that Kavanaughs job was
to get other cops. They contended that Zuley was a good cop, as
good as they come, and that he was getting slammed.
Ultimately, Zuley made a mistake. After being contacted by Fed
agents who had developed similar information, he stopped while
en route home to see if Manny Castro still had his business on
the North Side. A card was left with a neighboring business when
Zuley introduced himself and asked if Mr. Castro still had his
business. The card was given to Mr. Castro and he called Zuley.
Zuley told Mr. Castro that some agents might want to talk to him
and he said okay. Zuley never met Mr. Castro or ever saw him.
Kavanaugh initiated another complaint and Zuley ultimately took
a one-day suspension for disobeying an order not to have anything
to do with Palatine.
Kavanaugh and Bratcher had won. But had they?
There was a price to be paid, but Zuley wouldnt pay it.
The Police Tom-Tom network was throbbing. They had
successfully screwed Zuley. It became a cause celeb. And it didnt
take long for the information to reach Frank Portillo.
Portillo, the owner of Browns Chicken and Pasta, owned 140
stores. He was a very successful businessman. The killings devastated
Portillo, both emotionally and financially. He wanted the killers
He became a huge fan of Jerry Bratcher and the Task Force. He
joined the Chicago Crime Commission. He talked to legislative
leaders about stronger penalties in the robberies of restaurants.
He began speaking at luncheons all over Illinois, boosting public
support for law enforcement and local police.
But along the way, Portillo began to hear rumblings of controversy
at the Task Force.
Portillo always wondered why the Task Force had never come to
interview him. He had the names of numerous employees who had
been in the store in the days and hours before the murders. They
had never asked for this information, which could be used to eliminate
In addition, Portillo used a rare secret cooking formula to enhance
flavor of the chicken. This formula contained cottonseed oil.
It permeated everything in the Browns stores; the floors,
walls, counters. It was impossible to spend anytime in the rear
area of the restaurant without the oil getting on your clothes
and cars and everything you possessed.
But the Task Force never asked him. Portillo retained a lawyer,
former Federal Strike Force Chief Douglas Roller, to help him
analyze the situation. He had other attorneys defending a case
brought on by Manny Castro over possible negligence by management
the night of the killings.
But Portillo was insured with a high policy, 12 times more than
the highest American award. He felt secure. But those seven dead
people really bothered him. They were his people.
It didnt take Roller long to come up with the dissension
on the Task Force, the mutiny, the botched arrest of Cruz, and
the States Attorneys vendetta against Dick Zuley.
It was now legend within the Chicago PD and the States Attorneys
As often happened in these cases, two unrelated events collided.
In November 1995, Portillo came to the Better Government Association
through his attorney Doug Roller, a former colleague of BGA Executive
Director Brunner (theyd both run organized strike forces
against the Mafia for the U.S. Department of Justice).
Brunner agreed to take a preliminary look.
He assigned BGA Chief Investigator Mike Lyons, a 20-year veteran,
to the case. Lyons was responsible not only for major television
exposes with Mike Wallace, such as Navy Shipbuilding,
with the permanent investigative committee of the U.S. Senate,
and NBCs Cattle King Beef, for which the Cattle
King President went to federal prison after the BGAs project
with the US Congress (headed by Tom Harkin of Iowa), but hed
been responsible for the investigation into political corruption
of two prominent county officialsCounty Board President
George Dunne and States Attorney Cecil Partee. Dunne decided
not to run for re-election in the wake of the scandal and Partee
was defeated by Jack OMalley.
Thus, Lyons had in some way been responsible for OMalleys
election. Twenty percent of the exit poll voters said they had
voted against Partee because of the scandal uncovered by Lyons.
After Brunners meeting with Portillo, Lyons immediately
called to set up an appointment with Bratcher.
The second event that occurred in the fall of 1995 was the resurfacing
on Channel 5 News of the Lead 80 Memo written by Zuley.
Reporter Dave Savini had some new angles. He had found a previously
missing car, which sources said was used by the PR Stones robbery
gang. Medrys and Peters of the Task Force had been searching for
But essentially, many of the allegations were similar to those
in Goudies report two years prior, in September 1993. In
both instances, the reporters said that the leaks had come from
higher-ups in the Chicago PD who had seen the report
and thought it too pertinent to remain hidden.
If Zuley and Fowler had leaked the report, it would have coincided
the mutiny over Lead 80 and the Task Force split.
Lyons met with Bratcher, Koziol and new Task Force Director Jim
Bell, a former FBI staffer. He had never been an agent, though
many in the press treated him as if he had been. They met in early
December and repeated the company line: Zuley was a renegade.
He was fired by Bratcher with obvious pleasure. Koziol had never
made the ridiculous statements attributed to him in Lead
80. Bell pointed out that it was routine for task forces
to have one guy who didnt agree with the majority and tried
to do his own thing. There was no hint of the enormity of the
In fact, not only was everything hunky dory but Bell
pointed out, as he has said many times since, This is the
greatest Task Force ever assembled.
Bratcher also indicated that he would never cooperate with a BGA/Crime
Commission Panel examining the effectiveness of the Task Force
since it was an ongoing criminal investigation. Thus, his men
and his records would not be made available. Bratcher did volunteer
that if Lyons wished to understand the depth of Zuleys incompetence
and his questionable motivation, he should talk to Pat OBrien,
who had since assumed the role of Palatine PR person, and Paul
Carroll, a Chicago sergeant who would give us the inside
scoop on Zuley.
Bratcher also maintained that he had 42 reasons why Lead 80 couldnt
be true. One solid alibi would have ruled Cruz out. Of course,
42 reasons were hyperbole.
Clearly, Bratcher was willing to cooperate fully in attacking
Zuley, Fowler, Valdez and those who sided with them. But he was
unwilling to discuss his role in leading the Task Force and refused
to hand over a command flow chart.
Bratcher also assumed, incorrectly, that his lack of cooperation
would thwart any attempt to find out what went on inside the ranks
of the Task Force.
Bratcher grievously underestimated Lyons investigative ability.
Lyons laughed privately. George Dunne and Cecil Partee had never
given him any documents either.
Lyons had just finished an investigation of Chicagos 911
facility, in which he compromised the security of police headquarters
most secured area and photographed sleeping cops failing to answer
phones. The film was shown in a hilarious session of the City
Council and by Chris Wallace on Prime Time Live.
Similarly, Mike Lyons, with Mike Wallace and 60 Minutes, had infiltrated
the security system at OHare, placing BGA investigators
in the cockpits of El Al jets. Over the years, the BGA had successfully
sued the Chicago PD and the FBI in the Red Squad Case, uncovering
J. Edgar Hoovers CoInTel operation aimed at
destroying Martin Luther King by putting out false information
about his character.
The BGA also obtained over 250 tests for the Chicago Police Lieutenants
examination and aired the results for a week on NBC-TV.
Lyons didnt think it would be necessary to have Bratchers
cooperation. He found it humorous. They never cooperate,
Lyons went to OBrien who, while defending his own actions,
disparaged Zuleys character. OBrien suggested Lyons
talk to defense attorneystheyll tell him about Zuley.
Paul Carroll suggested that Zuley, while an effective detective,
was driven by prejudice against Puerto Ricans. Both men suggested
that the BGA should look into Zuleys background in order
to discredit him.
But because of an ongoing criminal investigation, theyd
be unable to discuss their own roles.
Bratcher then began a PR campaign discussing the BGA/Crime Commission
initiative. Attacking the concept he said, Ill not
subject my Task Force to any Tribunal.
And then an unusual thing occurred.
The anniversary of the murders was approaching. Seven people had
been killed in a brightly lit suburban shopping center on a busy
Friday evening, yet the crime remained unsolved. There were no
apparent leads. The Task Force had been brutally criticized on
Channel 5. Bratchers own prediction of three years before
had come true. If you have seven bodies and no suspects,
the press will eat you alive.
Never one to run from controversy, Bratcher decided to try a new
tactic. He used the taxpayers money to hire a new PR man
for an upcoming anniversary press conference. Hed attack
the critics of Lead 80, particularly Channel 5. After all, he
still had all the information and the all the critics had was
the nine page report.
Enter former WGN-TV anchor Rick Rosenthal. After he spent hours
analyzing internal documents, Rosenthal came up with a new game
plan to blunt the attacks from Savini, Goudie and the BGA/Crime
Commission. Bratcher never did explain why it was okay to show
his carefully-guarded files to Rosenthal.
At a highly unusual and highly-charged press conference, Bratcher
said that the Lead 80 document was not an official report because
it was not on Task Force stationary. He further quipped:
the real lead 80 is inches thick
he never saw the document until it was presented to him
by media representatives months later
the lead rests on false statements made by McQueeny, who
did an IdentaKit bearing a striking resemblance to Sanchez, but
later was convicted of providing false information
finally, Frank Portillo. What did Bratcher have to say
about him? Mr. Portillo protesteth too loud, in my opinion.
I would love to know what his motivation is.
This January press conference was followed by a supposedly objective
look at the facts in Law and Order magazine, authored by Rick
Rosenthal. Yes, the same paid PR man brought in by the Task Force
to construct and draft a Lead 80 response.
Rosenthal went on in the article to elaborate on Bratchers
points given at the press conference, attacking Channel 5s
Dave Savini. Rosenthal describes the merits of the Palatine Task
Force and discredits the informants involved with Lead 80. Aviles,
along with many other people, talked to police about the case,
but his ‘information was exhaustively investigated
and was discredited. Aviles was not a ‘key informant
and what he told police simply was not true.
It is helpful to remember a few key facts:
Fowler, Zuley, Valdez and Chicago Gang Crimes investigators
painstakingly corroborated the statements made by Aviles.
Cruz himself confirmed many of Aviles accusations,
confessing to two armed robberies.
The command felt the lead worthy enough to put together
40 men to arrest Cruz, with Bratchers point man Kavanaugh
fighting to have their troops pick him up for the glory.
OBrien endorsed Aviles veracity by authorizing
Fowlers application for a Skokie arrest warrant.
The string of robberies stopped after Cruzs arrest.
The armed robbery Cruz pled guilty to, based on Aviles testimony,
was one of the only crimes and only felony ever cleared by the
Task Force. Bratcher took liberal credit for it, bragging in one
press release, While the large investment of investigative
time resulted in the clearance of other robbery cases in Skokie,
it did not develop a productive link with the Palatine case. I
am satisfied with the course of this investigation. Then
why did Bratcher conduct two separate follow-up investigations
into the merit of Lead 80?
It is worthwhile to review the facts of Lead 80. It paints a picture
of overwhelming circumstantial evidence.
The striking correspondence between Aviles statements
and the facts of Browns and other robberies.
The use of Aviles fathers or uncles suburban
Wheeling home as a hideout, diminishing doubts about the possibility
of gang activity in the suburbs.
The string of PR Stones robberies whose modus operandi
matched that of Browns, all occurring on a timeline that
led directly to Browns (12/6/92, 12/29/92,1/5/93,1/6/93,
and Browns, 1/8/93).
Cruzs conviction in one of these robberies: the Skokie
King David Bakery robbery of 12/29/92.
Gang intelligence reports that connected Cruzs MO
to that of the Browns killer(s).
Cruzs striking knowledge of specific facts of the
Cruzs girlfriends 1985 silver Ford Thunderbirds
startling match with reports of various eyewitnesses at Browns
between 9 and 10 p.m. the night of the killings.
Gang Intelligences affirmation that Palatine was
a PR Stones thing.
Finally, what effect has Kavanaughs vendetta in fact had
on the most important issuesolving the Palatine murders?
To this date the intelligence operations of the Chicago PD, particularly
Gang Crimes, is constantly producing information which bears on
the crime. What happens to this information? Is it forwarded to
the Task Force?
Are you crazy? one Chicago detective told us. You
know what happened to Zuley.
In February 1993, scores of task force members gathered together
at the Alumni Club, a Schaumburg restaurant and bar, for a Task
Force recognition party. The Village of Palatine paid for award
plaques to be given to the Task Force members and seventy wool
Nearly five years after the killings, States Attorney Jack
OMalley was defeated for re-election and his chief investigator,
Kevin Kavanaugh, has retired from the Chicago police. Pat OBrien
left the States Attorneys office and became a private
attorney and paid PR spokesperson to combat the periodic news
media questioning of the Task Force.
Sergeant Koziol, of the Palatine Police Department, has been promoted
to Commander and is still a member of the seven-man Task Force.
Jerry Bratcher remains as the Police Chief of Palatine, earning
$82,630 a year in salary. Chief Bratcher maintains his outside
consulting business. In a phone conversation with BGA Executive
Director Terry Brunner just prior to the report being published,
Bratcher threatened the BGA with an investigation into its report.
Palatine taxpayers have paid for the Task Forces lunches,
dinners and drinks, most listed as Chiefs Dinners,
on at least 67 occasions, totaling over three-thousand dollars.
When asked if she approved of spending taxpayer funds for food
and liquor, Mayor Rita Mullins said she did not. When asked how
it could occur, she said she was unaware of it.
In 1997, Mayor Rita Mullins received the Lincoln Award for business
results. She attributed her success to the Villages use
of Total Quality Management since 1992.
Victor Valdez, of the Illinois State Police, has been promoted
to Master Sergeant. Brent Fowler has been promoted to sergeant.
Detective Dick Zuley, a full lieutenant in the United States Naval
Reserve Intelligence, was assigned for one year to the Caribbean
drug wars. He has since returned to Chicago Homicide and is still
used to solve their heater cases. His one-day suspension,
following his association with the Palatine Task Force, is the
only blot on his 27-year record.
Suspect Martin Blake sued the Village of Palatine, who settled
the case. Blake received something less than $100,000 in a sealed
Suspect Cruz pled guilty to the armed robbery of the King David
Bakery and was sentenced to prison.
The murders of seven people remain unsolved.
BGA Report -- Part 1 Part 2
Part 3 Part 4