Two charged in death of Cook County investigator

CHICAGO – Two men are being held without bond after being charged with murder and robbery for the shooting death of an off-duty Illinois sheriff’s investigator who was trying to break up an armed robbery outside a family Christmas party in the Chicago suburbs.

Twenty-two-year-olds Gage Thornton and Brandon Jackson both appeared in bond court Monday, hours after being charged with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted armed robbery.

Fifty-year-old Cuauhtemoc Estrada died Friday night after being shot in the chest. Sheriff’s officials say the officer was shot when trying to intervene in the robbery outside a VFW hall in Bellwood when the pair tried to attack the boyfriend of Estrada’s daughter.

Thorton and Jackson were arrested Saturday.

police followed footsteps in the snow, which led them to Jackson’s home that was several hundred feet away from the VFW, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. There they found a black ski mask and a distinctive red and blue jacket that surveillance video showed the two would-be robbers wearing.

Estrada is a former Marine who had been with Cook County Sheriff’s Department for more than 20 years. He worked in the electronic monitoring unit.

Former Maywood police Chief Tim Curry said he and Estrada had been friends for more than two decades.

“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,” Curry said. “His family should know he was an important person to this community.”

Estrada helped start a local Mexican Independence Day festival.