Trending Topics

‘At times like these, we are in despair’: Mourners gather to remember slain Chicago officer

A friend of Officer Andrés Vásquez-Lasso said he “gave up his life serving what he loved most: the police”


A large photo of Chicago police Officer Andrés Mauricio Vásquez Lasso is displayed before the start of his funeral Mass at St. Rita of Cascia Shrine Chapel on March 9, 2023. Vásquez Lasso was fatally shot in the line of duty in the city’s Gage Park neighborhood on March 1, 2023.

Stacey Wescott

By Jake Sheridan, Madeline Buckley, Adriana Pérez
Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — To the people who knew him best, Chicago police Officer Andrés Mauricio Vásquez Lasso was a loyal friend and confidant, even if he sometimes seemed serious upon first meeting.

To his mother, he was “my police officer,” as she affectionately called him. To some of his colleagues at the police academy, a friend fondly recalled, he was the officer who got the class in trouble one day when he was late.

Family, friends and Chicago police officers on Thursday shared emotional tributes at the funeral Mass for Vásquez Lasso, who was shot and killed on March 1 while responding to a domestic 911 call. Police officers filled the pews at St. Rita of Cascia Shrine Chapel for the service, presided in English and Spanish by Chicago police chaplain Fr. Dan Brandt and Fr. Andrés Beltrán.

[EARLIER: Chicago officer shot ‘multiple times,’ killed while pursuing armed domestic violence suspect]

The mourners paid their respects to Vásquez Lasso with the solemn rituals of a police funeral. Under cloudy skies, officers and community members lined the streets, saluting as a hearse took Vásquez Lasso’s casket to the Southwest Side church.

Bagpipers played outside, and scores of police cars lined South Western Avenue as Vásquez Lasso’s body passed under an American flag held up by two outstretched fire truck ladders. Among attendees were Mayor Lori Lightfoot, mayoral candidate Paul Vallas and a number of aldermen.

“At times like these, we are in despair. We don’t believe anyone really cares about the sacrifices that are made, or knows the courage and the bravery it takes to constantly run towards danger,” Chicago Police Supt. David Brown told mourners. “We don’t know if anyone fully understands the trauma of seeing people at their absolute worst or the horrors of seeing death, mangled bodies, tortured souls.”

Vásquez Lasso, 32 immigrated to the United States from Colombia when he was 18 years old. He enrolled in college and joined the Chicago Department Police by 27, said Bryan Spreyne, commander of the Chicago Lawn Police District where Vásquez Lasso was assigned.

“Like many people across the city these past few days, I’ve been trying to make sense of a tragedy that doesn’t make sense,” Spreyne said, his voice shaking with emotion.

Spreyne said Vásquez Lasso was a humble and dedicated officer who was recognized with awards and commendations. He met his wife Milena Estepa de Vásquez at a restaurant, and the two became inseparable. When his sister and niece moved to the U.S. about four years ago, “there was no question” where they would stay, he said.

During the homily, Beltrán, a family friend, addressed the mourners in Spanish, telling them the officer came to the United States with hopes and dreams of serving many people and doing good.

“(Vásquez Lasso) gave up his life serving what he loved most: the police,” he said. “And he leaves us, and we say goodbye to him, not only as a Colombian, but as a friend, as a colleague, as a family man.”

Beltrán asked why Vásquez Lasso’s alleged assailant had a gun.

“What is a young 18-year-old man doing with weapons in his hands? What is a young 18-year-old man doing, threatening his loved ones?” he asked.

The priest beckoned Vásquez Lasso’s family closer to the coffin, asking them to place their hands on it, and prayed with them. In between sobs, Milena Estepa de Vásquez, the officer’s widow, quietly thanked God for the years they were gifted alongside her husband. The crowd then erupted in applause after a short song in Spanish.

Steven Montano, 18, is facing charges of first-degree murder, along with two gun-related felonies and misdemeanor counts of interfering with a report of domestic violence and assault after Cook County prosecutors alleged he shot and killed Vásquez Lasso after a chase near his Gage Park home.

Vásquez Lasso was among officers who responded to the 5200 block of South Spaulding Avenue after a fight between Montano and his girlfriend spilled outside.

Montano threatened to get his gun while arguing with his girlfriend, grabbed her phone to stop her from calling 911 and charged at her, prosecutors have alleged. Montano ran away when police arrived, and shot Vásquez Lasso near a playground where children took cover under a slide, according to prosecutors. Vásquez Lasso shot and injured Montano, according to police.

During the Mass, Saúl Cantería, a friend and fellow officer, remembered bonding with Vásquez Lasso at the police academy. He wished they were able to spend more time together at work, he said.

“We were always so busy,” Cantería said.

In about 15 days, he said, the two would have marked five years since they started their policing journey together.

“You told me in Chicago it gets too cold. You loved to travel to sunny places,” Cantería said of his friend. “Well, Vásquez, you are now in the sunniest place of all.”

©2023 Chicago Tribune.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

PREVIOUS: Suspect charged after Chicago officer dies after shootout