The defense attorney for a man accused in the shooting death of a Zion teen outside of a Round Lake Beach minimart said he will try to block prosecutors from identifying his client as a gang member.
Jose Rebollar-Vergara, 25, of the 500 block of Carol Lane in Round Lake Park, is not a gang member, and prosecutors should not be allowed to introduce evidence linking him to a gang, defense attorney Robert Ritacca said Tuesday.
"Rebollar is not a gang member, he's a mechanic," Ritacca said following a pretrial hearing in front of Judge Daniel Shanes. "This is not a gang shooting."
Ritacca said he intends to file paperwork to suppress any statements that link Rebollar-Vergara to a gang, should the case go to trial.
Authorities said Rebollar-Vergara and admitted gang member Jose Garcia, 18, of Mundelein, confronted Gonzalez inside the One Stop Food and Liquor Store in the 1000 block of Fairfield Road at 12:40 a.m. on March 10, 2013, and wrongly assumed Gonzalez was in a rival gang.
After angry words were exchanged inside the store, Gonzalez pushed out to the parking lot where the argument continued with Rebollar-Vergara, authorities said.
Garcia also went to the parking lot during the argument and pulled out a .22-caliber handgun and shot at the 18-year-old Gonzalez, authorities said. He died after a bullet struck his aorta, authorities said.
Garcia was found guilty of Gonzalez's murder Feb. 7. He testified during his trial that Rebollar-Vergara was a gang member and the person who fired the shot that killed Gonzalez.
Prosecutors have argued Garcia was the triggerman in the murder and that he was an enforcer for Rebollar-Vergara, who they believe was the highest ranking gang member at the scene.
Ritacca disagreed. He claimed Rebollar-Vergara did not know Garcia was armed the night of the killing.
"Nobody knew Garcia had a gun," Ritacca said. "My client is the least culpable person at the scene that night."
Both sides are expected to return to court March 24 for a pretrial hearing. The trial is tentatively scheduled for April 21.