FBI agents wounded in bid to nab reputed gang member; suspect dead

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By Jason Meisner, Zak Koeske and Dennis Sullivan, Chicago Tribune

Two FBI agents serving an arrest warrant suffered non-life-threatening gunshot wounds Tuesday morning at a home in Park Forest, south of Chicago, and a suspect in the residence was found dead, according to the FBI.

The Cook County medical examiner’s office identified the dead man as Melvin Toran, 50.

Toran was a reputed high-ranking member of the Black P Stone Nation street gang, according to a federal law enforcement source. FBI agents had gone to the home in the south suburb of Chicago to arrest him on charges of narcotics trafficking, part of a gang sweep involving several other ranking members of the gang.

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The charges alleged Toran had made a heroin sale to an FBI informant, the source said.

Court records show that Toran had a long criminal record in Cook County, including a conviction for murder in 1986. He also served time for separate weapons offenses and was charged in 2007 with the aggravated assault of a police officer. He also had a 1999 conviction in Wisconsin for possessing heroin with the intent to distribute, according to records.

FBI spokesman Garrett Croon said one of its SWAT teams had gone to the house on Rich Court to enforce the arrest. He said the teams typically number 10 people or so.

Croon said the agency’s evidence response team has remained at the scene. He added that “more information may be coming regarding an operation we’ve been conducting,” but he had no further information about the incident itself as of late Tuesday morning.

He said that Michael Anderson, head of the FBI’s office in Chicago, had been at the scene earlier and was visiting the injured agents at the hospital.

Scott Smith, who lives nearby, said he saw an estimated 40 law enforcement personnel begin to mobilize in yards throughout the neighborhood about 6:30 a.m. He said they were in SWAT gear armed with weapons and at least one tank.

He said about half a dozen law enforcement members began to yell at Toran to leave the house. They told him that his mother was at the scene and wanted to talk to him.

When Toran didn’t leave, tear gas canisters were shot into the home, Smith said. Another neighbor, Orpheus Ugbesia, said other people who were in the house left when the canisters were fired.

Smith said after Toran still did not come out, authorities broke down the door, and gunshots could be heard from inside the home.

Several neighbors said they had not suspected that anything out of the ordinary had been going on in the house until Tuesday, though Smith said he noticed a van and a police car parked near the home Monday. Neighbors described Toran as a nice, friendly person who was often seen walking his pit bull.

The incident temporarily shut down schools in the area.

Earlier in the morning, parents of students in Park Forest-Chicago Heights School District 163 had been advised that children who walk or ride the bus to school should be kept at home of “an unsafe situation in the community,” according to a post on the Park Forest-based district’s website. But schools have been reported back in session.

Rich East High School, which is near the shooting, was also placed on lockdown for a while, but only a few students were in the building because it was a “makeup exam” day, according to Gregory Wright, interim superintendent of Rich Township High School District 227.

(Meisner is a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. Koeske is a reporter for the Daily Southtown. Sullivan is a freelance reporter.)

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