Nearly a week after the murder of Pedro Gurrola Jr. stunned his south Oak Park neighbors, Oak Park police are inviting residents of the neighborhood near East Avenue and Harrison Street to a meeting Thursday for an update on the investigation.

Local police have been tight-lipped since mid-day last Thursday, Sept. 14. But they remain convinced that the murder of Gurrola, 41, who was killed by a blow to his head while in his garage, was not a random act.

Oak Park Police Chief Rick Tanksley said that day that the next big lead is likely to come when they find Gurrola’s car, a Chevrolet Lumina, which was missing from the garage.

Meanwhile, in Oak Park schools and at the Buffalo Grove post office where Gurrola worked as a letter carrier, officials have offered counseling services to friends of Gurrola’s children and his co-workers.

As the family and friends of Gurrola’s children deal with the violent death at Percy Julian Middle School and beyond, District 97 prepared its counseling team to deal with the trauma.

“This is a tragic event for this family, as well as for the members of our community,” District 97 Superintendent Al Roberts said in a statement. “We have social workers at our schools who are available if any of our students, staff, or parents/guardians want to talk about what happened. We are also working closely with the family to ensure its needs and wishes are being met.”

“We’re saddened by the loss – he was a good carrier,” said Sean Hargadon, a U.S. Postal Service spokesman. “This is something you never want to happen.”

Hargadon said Gurrola had worked in Buffalo Grove for seven years. While part-time letter carriers like Gurrola work a minimum of 20 hours a week, many times they work full-time hours, he said.

Last Thursday morning, Gurrola was headed to work just like any other day. Around 6:45 a.m., he walked out to his car to leave for his job.

But he never made it to work on Sept. 14. Around 10 a.m. that morning, his wife went out to the garage behind their home on the 800 block of S. East Ave. and found her husband already dead and lying behind her silver Nissan Pathfinder bleeding from the head.

His car, a 1997 maroon Chevrolet Lumina with Illinois license plate number 8479360, was also missing and presumed stolen.

Police are treating Gurrola’s death as a homicide. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office said Gurrola died of blunt force trauma to the head.

Police have been tight-lipped about the details of the investigation since an early burst of information on the day of the murder.

Oak Park police canvassed the area on Thursday, and said they were following up on several leads – though Tanksley said police haven’t found any residents who saw the incident.

“We have a couple leads, and we don’t think this was a random act,” Tanksley said. “We don’t think there’s cause for fear in Oak Park at this time.”

Adriana Kopecka said her daughter is best friends with Gurrola’s daughter. The two girls bike to Julian Middle School together every day, Kopecka said – including Thursday morning.

That morning, Kopecka’s daughter went through the alley to grab her bike – just like every day – and unsuspectingly walked right past the crime scene.

“I’m shaking, and the fact that my daughter walked right past the scene of a murder?” Kopecka said. “It makes me incredibly unnerved.”

Kopecka said she didn’t know Gurrola well, but he always seemed like a good person.

“He was a really nice guy – he was always really friendly,” Kopecka said. “He was the father of great kids. The girls have been in school together since kindergarten.”

Thursday night, the Gurrola family was at their church, First Baptist Church of Oak Park, but didn’t talk much.

Oak Park police haven’t given any updates on the investigation since the first day, but are planning a community meeting Thursday night, Sept. 16 at 7:30 p.m. at the Oak Park Conservatory, 615 Garfield St. in Oak Park.

At that meeting, to which the village has invited residents from the 700 and 800 south blocks of Clarence, East and Scoville, police will provide an update on the ongoing investigation.

Chief Tanksley, Deputy Chief Anthony Ambrose, Community Policing Sgt. Dave Jacobson and other officers involved in the investigation will attend.

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Related story:

  • Man murdered in south Oak ParkVehicle missing of 41-year-old Oak Park man Pedro Gurrola Jr. – 9/9/2010

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Ben Meyerson

Ben was Wednesday Journal's crime, parks, and River Forest reporter, until he kept bugging us enough to promote him. Now he's managing two of Wednesday Journal's sister papers in the city, Chicago Journal...