Man found guilty of shooting East St. Louis police officer

News-DemocratMarch 26, 2014 

AP GRAPHICS

A 39-year-old man, who shot an East St. Louis Police officer, was found guilty Tuesday night by a St. Clair County jury.

Cortez D. Gillum, of East St. Louis, was found guilty of the shooting of Michael Baxton Jr. outside a city housing project. It took the jury about an hour to return the guilty verdict on two counts of attempted first-degree murder, one count of aggravated battery with a firearm, and one count of unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon.

Gillum was accused of shooting Baxton in the face with a 9 mm handgun on March 4, 2012, on the parking lot of the Orr Weathers federal housing complex, on Missouri Avenue.

Gillum was wanted for violating the terms of his release from the Federal Bureau of Prisons to a halfway house.

Gillum, who has six prior felonies in his criminal history, will face an enhanced mandatory prison sentence of from 31 years to natural life in prison.

Among Gillum's prior felony convictions are second-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Gillum, in an interview from the St. Clair County Jail, said Baxton used excessive force on him and he was defending himself. Gillum said Baxton would have killed him if he did not have the gun.

Gillum said he knew he would have to pay the price for having the gun and was willing to do so, but he was not guilty of attempted murder of a police officer.

Baxton could not be reached for comment, but State's Attorney Brendan Kelly responded to Gillum's accusations, saying, "The jury clearly didn't believe the defendant's story. This case proves yet again that criminals with guns are a threat to officer safety and public safety in East St. Louis and St. Clair County."

Steve Sallerson and Amanda Fischer, both assistant state's attorneys, prosecuted the case.

East St. Louis Police Chief Michael Floore said he is pleased with the outcome of the case.

"I believe justice was served. I am thankful to the members of the jury and all of the police agencies who worked with us -- the Illinois State Police, the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, the ISP SWAT team -- just everybody who came to East St. Louis to help us find and arrest the person who shot one of our police officers," Floore said.

Floore said East St. Louis police officers who were off duty voluntarily came in to help capture Gillum.

"They are to be recognized, too, for what they did. And, I do recognize and thank them for coming in to help their fellow officer and the department."

Illinois State Police Capt. Jim Morrisey said, "I, too, appreciate all of the hard work of all of the police officers involved in taking a a very dangerous criminal off the streets."

Contact reporter Carolyn P. Smith at 618-239-2503.

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