It’s always busy for Chicago Police on New Year’s Eve but when Austin District Patrol Officer William Riga learned he’d be elbow to elbow with the superintendent himself, 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 said, quoting police Supt. Garry McCarthy.
Riga 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 his partner Christopher Cannata were going to have company.
“He wanted to ride with us,’’ said Riga of McCarthy.
Riga said the West Side areas he and Cannata have been focusing on are particularly gang and narcotics infested and said every night is “fast paced,’’ but especially on Monday because it was New Year’s Eve. They headed out on a “hot call” traveling in a group with McCarthy riding ahead of Riga in an unmarked SUV and Riga trailing him in a marked squad car.
It was about 1:25 a.m. in the 5500 block of West Congress Parkway when they saw a 1978 Oldsmobile making traffic violations. They activated their lights and stopped the car.
“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, learning 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.
As the car’s occupants were 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 it, found it was loaded and had its serial number defaced, and Armstead was arrested and charged with felony aggravated unlawful use of a weapon. The driver was taken to the station also and given traffic citations as 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 e-mail 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.
Riga, a five-year veteran of the department, said the night was a memorable one for him, and it felt good to have McCarthy give him and his partner a “pat on the back.’’
“He’s a police officer just like anyone else and I think that was the biggest thing to take away from it,’’ said Riga, who has five years with the department.
“From my view he believes in what he’s doing,’’ Riga said of McCarthy.
Their night came to an end about 7 a.m. with the completion of paperwork connected to the arrest and congratulation from the superintendent.
“He (McCarthy) congratulated us and said, ‘You guys are doing great work.’’’