Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy
Photo credit: Chicago Police Department
It's always busy for Chicago police on New Year's Eve, but when Austin District Officer William Riga learned he'd be elbow to elbow with Superintendent Garry McCarthy, another factor was in the mix.
"Initially I felt a little bit more pressure, but when we got into the car with him, he put it to rest," said Riga, 31. "He said, 'Let's go out and do the job.' "
Riga and partner Christopher Cannata went on patrol with McCarthy, and the superintendent ended up assisting in a weapons arrest.
Riga said the West Side areas they patrol are gang- and narcotics-infested and every night is "fast paced." But that was especially so Monday because it was New Year's Eve.
They were traveling, at one point, with Cannata driving an unmarked SUV with McCarthy in the passenger seat and Riga trailing them in a marked squad car.
At about 1:25 a.m. in the 5500 block of West Congress Parkway, they saw the driver of a 1978 Oldsmobile violate some traffic laws.
"We pulled the vehicle over, and I approached on the passenger side and my partner on the driver's side," Riga said.
The passenger, Montrez Armstead, 23, began making "furtive movements," Riga said. "He was kind of like reaching down, leaning forward, almost disappearing out of sight," Riga said. "We didn't know what he was doing, so we removed them from the vehicle," Riga said of Armstead and the driver.
While the car's occupants were being detained, McCarthy went to work.
"He walked up to the vehicle, and as he was leaning into it, the butt of a Glock 22, a .40-caliber semi-automatic handgun, was protruding from the floorboards," Riga said.
McCarthy removed the gun and found it was loaded and had its serial number defaced, Riga said. Armstead was arrested and charged with felony aggravated unlawful use of a weapon. The driver was taken to the station and given traffic citations, and the car was impounded, Riga said.
Armstead, 23, of the 1400 block of North Lawndale Avenue, was in bond court Tuesday and ordered held in lieu of $50,000 bail, according to Cook County Jail records.
Police spokeswoman Melissa Stratton said in an email that McCarthy goes out on patrol frequently, as does every member of the department's command staff, and that this is not his first arrest. She also noted that police recovered 89 guns that night.
Riga, a five-year veteran of the department, said they'd heard rumblings the whole week that McCarthy might show up at their station, but it wasn't until about 9 p.m. that he was told he and Cannata were going to have company.
"He wanted to ride with us," Riga said.
At times during the shift, McCarthy rode with them in the patrol car, and at other times he was in a separate vehicle.
"He's a police officer just like anyone else, and I think that was the biggest thing to take away from it," Riga said.
Their shift came to an end about 7 a.m. with the completion of paperwork connected to the arrest and words of support from the superintendent.
"He (McCarthy) congratulated us and said, 'You guys are doing great work.' "
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