A Democratic state senator who is seeking former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s congressional seat was arrested Wednesday at O’Hare International Airport after trying to board an aircraft to Washington, D.C., with a gun, authorities said.
Sen. Donne Trotter, of Chicago, was expected to spend the night in a Northwest Side police lockup and appear in bond court Thursday. Police said they found an unloaded .25-calibre Beretta in his garment bag along with a clip containing six live rounds.
The South Side lawmaker told authorities that he worked late Tuesday night as a security guard for Allpoints Security and Detective Inc. and had packed his bag early Wednesday morning. Trotter, who has the proper permits and licenses to carry a firearm for security work, told officials he forgot the gun and clip were in the bag.
The arrest adds a new dimension to the 2nd Congressional District contest to replace Jackson, who announced his resignation Nov. 21 amid federal ethics probes and a diagnosis of bipolar depression.
Trotter, who has been in the state legislature since 1989, is among at least a half dozen announced Democratic contenders for the office in the heavily Democratic district that stretches from the South Side to Kankakee. He appeared to have the inside track toward gaining the formal endorsement of the district’s top Cook County Democrats at a Dec. 15 slating session.
The senator was not in Springfield for session Wednesday, though he was at the state Capitol a day earlier. A source said Trotter was expected to attend the annual conference of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators in Washington.
Transportation Security Administration officials and Chicago police said Trotter, 62, was at a security checkpoint in Terminal 1, which serves United Airlines, when a TSA officer detected the firearm inside a bag during an X-ray screening at about 8 a.m. Police responded to a call from TSA and when officials realised the bag belonged to Trotter, they escorted him to a nearby room to interview him.
Trotter was charged with attempting to board an aircraft with a weapon, a Class 4 felony, according to Tandra Simonton, a state’s attorney’s office spokeswoman. The felony charge carries a prison sentence of one to three years, though a judge can grant probation.
The state senator currently earns $84,416 a year in his role as chairman of the Senate Democratic majority caucus. Attempts to reach officials at Allpoints Security were unsuccessful.
The Chicago-based security firm donated $500 to Trotter’s re-election campaign last year, records show. In his economic interest statement filed with the state in April, Trotter said he did not receive more than $1,200 in outside income from nonprofessional services during the previous 12 months.
Trotter has been a longtime gun-control advocate who opposed concealed carry legislation in the state. In an unsuccessful Democratic primary bid in 2000 against U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, Trotter chided another candidate in the contest for being absent from a special legislative session during a crucial gun-control vote.
“It’s important for our constituents to be here to act upon this one way or another,” Trotter said of then-state Sen. Barack Obama.
Other 2nd District contenders in the Feb. 26 primary include former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson of Crete, state Sen. Toi Hutchinson of Olympia Fields, former state Rep. Robin Kelly of Matteson, state Sen.-elect Napoleon Harris of Flossmoor and convicted former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds.
Tribune reporters Monique Garcia, Rosemary Regina Sobol, Annie Sweeney and Ray Long contributed.
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