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Family of Officer Luis Huesca didn’t want Mayor Brandon Johnson, Gov. J.B. Pritzker at funeral

LawFamily of Officer Luis Huesca didn't want Mayor Brandon Johnson, Gov. J.B. Pritzker at funeral

Neither Mayor Brandon Johnson nor Gov. J.B. Pritzker attended the funeral Monday of slain Chicago Police Officer Luis Huesca after being told the family did not want them there.

State Comptroller Susana Mendoza conveyed the family’s wishes to the mayor’s staff, according to her spokesperson, Abdon Pallasch. Mendoza, whose brother is a CPD officer, talked to Huesca’s mother and sister at the wake on Sunday, Pallasch said.

“The mom was crying. She said they didn’t want the mayor to attend because they don’t think he supports the police,” Pallasch said.

Pritzker, who ordered all Illinois flags to fly at half-staff through Monday to honor Huesca, said on Monday he likewise followed the family’s request — through a liaison — to not attend funeral services.

When the mayor’s office issued Johnson’s Monday schedule on Sunday night, however, it stated he would attend the funeral. Mendoza noted on social media Monday morning the schedule came out after she had told the mayor’s office of the family’s wishes.

About an hour before the funeral, the mayor’s office issued an updated schedule stating Johnson would not attend and including a statement from the mayor:

“We continue to send our deepest condolences to the family and colleagues of Officer Luis Huesca as they heal from the loss of their beloved son, nephew, brother and friend,” Johnson was quoted as saying. “As mayor, I vow to continue supporting our police and first responders, uniting our city and remaining committed to working with everyone toward building a better, stronger, safer Chicago.

“My heart is with the Huesca family today. God bless them and God bless the City of Chicago.”

Ronnie Reese, the mayor’s communication director, refused to comment beyond Johnson’s statement.

Chicago mayors have typically attended the funerals of officers who die in the line of duty. Huesca was off duty but in uniform and on his way home when he was killed; the department later ruled he had died in the line of duty.

The governor’s office frequently reaches out to representatives of family members to respect their funeral requests. In some cases, the family says no — which also happened with family members of those killed in the Highland Park mass shooting in 2022.

“It is really up to the family whether they want the attention that comes with — and all of the hullabaloo — that comes with public officials attending,” Pritzker told reporters at an unrelated news conference on Monday. “So I always follow the request of the family to do whatever makes them most comfortable.”

An emotional Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th) said after the funeral he has “no idea” why the Huesca family asked both Johnson and Pritzker to stay away. But O’Shea, one of the police union’s staunchest City Council supporters, said he knows what message both politicians should take away from the rebuff.

“Officer Huesca was a peacemaker. All of us who attended or watched today should take from that to maybe be more like Luis Huesca and be compassionate and look out for others because that’s how he lived his life and that’s how he served the Chicago Police Department,” O’Shea said, his voice breaking.

“I don’t think, at this point, we should be talking about any elected official or what they did or didn’t do or were told,” added O’Shea, whose Far Southwest Side ward is home to scores of Chicago police officers. “Now, more than ever, we’ve got to figure out a way to work together, support one another and support police officers and their families.”

Johnson is not the first Chicago mayor to receive a show of disrespect from Chicago police officers.

In August 2021, officers were gathered on the seventh floor of the University of Chicago hospital after the fatal shooting of Officer Ella French and the wounding of French’s partner, Carlos Yanez Jr. When Mayor Lori Lightfoot arrived, they turned their backs to her.

Carlos Yanez Sr. later told the Sun-Times he twice told the mayor’s staff his son was “not a fan of Lori Lightfoot, to put it mildly” and the family did not want her on the hospital floor.

Johnson campaigned on a promise to reduce police spending by $150 million. Under fire during his runoff election against Paul Vallas, who was endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, Johnson subsequently vowed not to cut “one penny” from the Chicago Police Department’s $1.94 billion budget.

His first budget actually increased the police department’s budget to pay for an extended police contract that sweetened the deal for rank-and-file officers.

But Johnson also twice persuaded the Council to reject an independent arbitrator’s ruling on police disciplinary hearings. The arbitrator had found that under state law, officers accused of the most serious wrongdoing — and recommended for firing or suspensions longer than one year — had the right to bypass the Police Board and take their cases to an arbitration hearing, which can be held behind closed doors.

Despite those Council votes, the arbitrator has repeatedly reaffirmed his ruling.

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