Attorney: Round Lake Beach slaying confession was coerced
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A defense attorney for an admitted gang member facing murder charges in the shooting of a Zion teen outside a Round Lake Beach convenience store claims his client was coerced into confessing to the killing.
James Schwarzbach said police told Jose Garcia, 19, of the 600 block of Deepwoods Drive in Mundelein, that unless he "manned up" and confessed to shooting Gabriel Gonzalez, 18, on March 8, gang members would attack his mother, father and sister.
Schwarzbach told Lake County Judge Daniel Shanes during a court hearing Tuesday that officers also threatened to forgo police protection for Garcia's family from the alleged retaliation unless he confessed to shooting Gonzalez outside the One Stop Food and Liquor store on Fairfield Road.
"The officers told him, 'Your mom is going to walk to her car and someone is going to walk up to her and jack her,'" Schwarzbach said. "Police effectively put a gun to his head and told him his family would be jacked unless he confessed."
However, prosecutors said officers were not coercing a confession out of Garcia, but rather they were outlining what could happen because Garcia had admitted he was in a gang.
"(Garcia) was cool, collected and calm until the very end (of the interrogation)," Assistant State's Attorney Reginald Mathews said. "The officers just let him know the realities of gang life."
This was the first day of arguments over Schwarzbach's motion to suppress Garcia's confession in the Gonzalez murder.
Garcia and fellow gang member Jose Rebollar-Vergara, 25, of the 500 block of North Carol Lane in Round Lake Park, each face three counts of first-degree murder for killing Gonzalez after the three bumped into each other at the store at 12:40 a.m.
Garcia and Rebollar-Vergara wrongly assumed Gonzalez was in a gang and confronted him about a past altercation, authorities said. Gonzalez fled the store, but Garcia and Rebollar-Vergara followed him to the parking lot where a verbal argument continued, authorities said.
One of the defendants pulled out a .22-caliber handgun and fired at Gonzalez, authorities said. One bullet hit Gonzalez in the back and pierced his aorta, killing him.
Attorneys for Rebollar-Vergara and Mathews claim Garcia fired the weapon that killed Gonzalez, but Schwarzbach said he plans to refute video evidence submitted as evidence of the shooting.
If Garcia or Rebollar-Vergara are found guilty of first-degree murder, they could be sentenced up to 75 years in prison.
Schwarzbach and Mathews are expected back in court Oct. 17 to finish Tuesday's hearing.
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