What happened before Mayor Brandon Johnson finally agreed to stay away from slain offcer’s funeral?

Law enforcement personnel salute as the hearse carrying Officer Luis Huesca passes by after his funeral at St. Rita of Cascia Shrine Chapel on Monday.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara is lifting the curtain on the backstage maneuvers culminating in Mayor Brandon Johnson and Gov. J.B. Pritzker being told to stay away from the funeral of slain Chicago Police Officer Luis Huesca.

The back-and-forth, which only intensified the grieving family’s anguish, did not start and end with Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza delivering the stay-away message directly to the mayor Sunday night.

Catanzara said it started last Wednesday, when “somebody close to the family” called him to say the Huescas “did not want certain people at his services.” The family reaffirmed that message in meetings with Catanzara on Friday and Saturday.

Catanzara said he delivered the message to FOP lobbyist Dave Sullivan.

Pritzker immediately agreed to honor the family’s wishes. The mayor’s office “initially agreed,” only to start “pushing back” the following day, Catanzara said, so he called Sullivan again, with the slain officer’s sister, Lily O’Brien, on the line.

“The final sentence that Lily told my lobbyist was, ‘If he [Johnson] shows up there, I will make a scene and throw him out myself,’ ” Catanzara recalled.

Catanzara “thought everything was squared away” until midday Sunday, when the Huesca family, gathered for the wake, texted a question: “Is the mayor really coming?”

He rushed to the funeral home, where CPD personnel told him they had talked to the family, and “they understand that the mayor is mandatory to be here,” Catanzara said.

“I said, ‘You’re lying to the family. There is nothing mandatory about the mayor’s attendance, and shame on you for even trying to tell the family that this is the only option they have.’”

A flurry of conversations ensued, one including CPD Supt. Larry Snelling on speakerphone with other police brass, one of whom told Huesca’s mother, in Spanish, it was “mandatory that the mayor had to show up.”

“ At one point, there was an implication that the honors funeral is tied to the mayor’s attendance. That was the guilt trip that we’re laying on this family,” Catanzara said.

Mendoza and state Rep. Angelica Guerrero-Cuellar, D-Chicago, were with the family at the wake. Huesca’s mother told them “they didn’t want the mayor to attend because they don’t think he supports the police,” said Abdon Pallasch, Mendoza’s spokesperson.

Catanzara asked Mendoza and Guerrero-Cuellar to call the mayor. Johnson again made no commitment to honor the family’s wishes, and his advance team showed up at Saint Rita Cascia Shrine Chapel on Monday, hours before the funeral.

Johnson’s public schedule for Monday, released later Sunday, included the funeral. An updated schedule released at 8:51 a.m. Monday said he would not attend.

The mayor’s office and Chicago Police Department refused to comment on Catanzara’s version of events.

At lunch after the funeral, Catanzara said, he asked the Huescas if they wanted him to go public with the behind-the-scenes saga. They did.

“Our family feels so frustrated and furious that our brother is not here,” Lily O’Brien said in a video posted by the FOP before the funeral. “He had somebody else that murdered him [who] is running around, and he’s still free. The anger that we feel with how violent that Chicago has turned. How this is now the status quo. How this is normalized. This week, it’s my brother. Next week, it’s your brother or somebody else’s son or somebody else’s mother.”

(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *