Sheriff's officer shot dead outside family Christmas party

Cook County, Ill. sheriff’s investigator Cuauhtemoc Estrada, who was fatally shot while trying to break up an armed robbery on Friday, Dec. 20, 2013.
Cook County Sheriff’s Office

Updated 3:20 p.m.

CHICAGO – Two suspects are in custody in connection with the fatal shooting of an Illinois sheriff's investigator who was trying to break up an armed robbery outside a family Christmas party in Bellwood, a village 15 miles west of downtown Chicago.

According to CBS Chicago, Cuauhtemoc Estrada, 50, was getting ready for a family gathering Friday night when he walked outside and saw the armed men trying to rob his daughter and her boyfriend.

Gage Thornton and Brandon Jackson, both 22, are charged with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted armed robbery, said Andre Harvey, director of public safety for the Bellwood Police Department.

CBS Chicago reports that Harvey said detectives were able to identify Jackson and Thornton via surveillance footage outside the VFW where Estrada was shot. The Chicago Tribune reports that police initially found the two by following footsteps in the snow outside the VFW to a home 400 feet away. According to the paper, court documents say that inside the house, officers found Thornton and Jackson, as well as a black ski mask and a box of ammunition for the .44 handgun allegedly used in the crime. No gun has been recovered.

The paper reports that according to court documents, Estrada saw his daughter and her boyfriend being robbed, pulled out his gun to protect them, and was shot in the chest.

Estrada’s family remembered him Saturday as a “beautiful person” who loved organizing family get-togethers and helped start Maywood’s Festival Azteca, reports CBS Chicago.

“He was generally well-known throughout the community — one of the go-to people when you wanted to talk to a Hispanic person in the community,” said former Maywood police Chief Tim Curry, a friend of more than 20 years. “His family should know he was an important person to this community.”