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Gasior: Families' calls handled as 'routine' incidents
Daily Herald Staff Report
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Published: 8/4/2009 5:03 PM | Updated: 8/4/2009 10:09 PM

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Originally published Jan. 13, 1993

Walter Gasior, Palatine deputy police chief, held a news conference with reporters Tuesday, where questions dealt largely with how fast police responded to worried family members. Here are excerpts:

"I can assure the citizens of Palatine that the Palatine Police Department has put extra patrols along business areas as well as along residential areas and we're very conscious of the situation. We're trying to address the fears and anxieties of Palatine businesses as well as the fears of Palatine citizens.

"I can report to you that the FBI has been involved in an advisory capacity.

"There have been questions about incidents that happened at the Brown's Chicken restaurant in Palatine the last couple of years. In 1992 we had six reported incidents, in 1991 we had a total of nine and they were things like insecure premises, vehicle lockout, deceptive practices and other public services.

"We have received over 600 calls since Saturday morning in regards to this case. The majority of those calls are from people who are providing us with information they believe is related to this incident. The investigative task force is prioritizing those leads as well as following up on any information.

"It has been reported the Palatine Police Department had contact with the Maldonado and Castro families in the hours preceding the discovery of the multiple homicide at the Palatine Brown's Chicken Restaurant.

"According to records of the incident and briefing of the Palatine officers, at approximately 12:21 a.m., Jan. 9,1993, a Palatine police officer observed a vehicle driving slowly in the lot of Brown's Chicken restaurant in Palatine. The officer entered the parking lot of the strip mall immediately north of the lot at the exit of the restaurant parking lot.

(Gasior explained how the officer met with Pedro Maldonado, brother of slain cook Guadalupe Maldonado.)

"The individual also stated that he had looked through the front windows and had knocked on the front door but no one was inside. The officer mentioned that possibly his brother went out with friends. The individual shrugged his shoulders. The officer then said, 'Maybe he stopped for a few beers after work.'

"The individual then shrugged his shoulders again got back in his car and both the officer and individual drove away.

"According to records of the incident and a briefing of the Palatine officer, a call was received by our dispatchers at 1:02 a.m. by a member of the Castro family. The call stated that Michael Castro had not yet returned from work and that there was no answer at the business.

"A Palatine police officer was dispatched and he arrived at the Brown's lot at 1:04 a.m. The patrol officer conducted an external check of the premises. He observed Michael Castro's car in the lot. He found the premises to be dark with the night light on. The officer returned to his car and began to leave the lot.

"As he was so doing, the officer observed a car pulling into the parking lot of the strip mall north of Brown's. The officer then circled the restaurant and drove up to that vehicle. Inside the car were a male and female ... the woman exited the car and said 'I'm the one who called the police. My son has not come home.' The officer asked if it was possible that her son went out with friends after work. She said yes, it was possible. She returned to her car and both parties left the scene."

Q. There were cars in the lot. Did he not check those? Did he not harbor some suspicion of the cars?

A. He did observe Michael Castro's car in the lot. Understand this is Friday evening and it was just after midnight and the assumption that the officer made was that it was possible that these people who worked at Brown's Chicken or friends of the people who worked at Brown's Chicken had left to go out after work and not return home.

"Hindsight is a very nice thing. Clearly hindsight sitting here today and looking back at the two incidents gives them a great deal of significance. At that time, based on the information that both those officers had it appeared to be routine incidents, explainable incidents. And our officer talking to Michael Castro's mother explained it to her and she seemed to accept it as well.

"Yes, today, looking at the incidents they have great significance. At the time, based upon the officers' information that they had, and their judgment, they seemed to be routine types of checks of well-being as well as checks of suspicious vehicles in the second incident.

Q. However this resolves itself, did you lose valuable investigative time having then discovered the murders several hours later?

A. I can't comment on that, because we don't know what the time was. We have not yet at this time divulged what the specific time frame was.

Q. Is there any reason to believe the police officers would have dealt with the families any differently if they weren't minorities and didn't speak in broken English?

A. That question calls into question the professionalism of the Palatine Police Department. ... First of all, they are very conscious of dealing with individuals of other races and minorities. We take great pride in being a police department involved with customer service as a primary focus. Approximately half of our field officers have been involved in training of sensitivity of ethnic and racial diversity. Hispanics are the primary minority with which we deal. We have a close relationship with the leaders of the Spanish community.

Q. Do you feel in the last 24 hours you have made any progress in coming up with possible suspects?

A. Again, we're not commenting in any specific way about suspects, possible motive or any people we are interviewing.