A 26-year-old Round Lake man was found guilty Friday of murder for assisting in the killing of Gabriel Gonzalez because of the way he wore a hat.
Jose Rebollar, of the 500 block of Carol Lane, now faces up to 75 years in prison after a Lake County jury deliberated for four hours before convicting him on three counts of first-degree murder for the shooting death of Gonzalez, 18, of Zion. His next court date is scheduled for June 12.
Through their verdict, jurors decided Rebollar should shoulder some of the blame for the March 10, 2013 murder outside the One Stop Food and Liquor Store in the 1000 block of Fairfield Road, Round Lake Beach.
Assistant State's Attorney Scott Hoffert told jurors during closing arguments Friday that Gonzalez was in the store making a purchase at the front counter when Rebollar confronted him because of the way he was wearing a baseball hat. Rebollar flashed gang signs and argued with the Gonzalez about his gang affiliation, Hoffert said, but Gonzalez wasn't a gang member and left the store to escape the confrontation.
Hoffert said Rebollar -- who is also named in court documents as Rebollar-Vergara or Vergara-Rebollar -- and co-defendant Jose Garcia, 19, of Mundelein, followed Gonzalez to the parking lot where the argument continued. There, Garcia fired 10 shots from a concealed handgun. One bullet hit Gonzalez in the back, killing him, Hoffert said.
Hoffert played a step-by-step video of the entire confrontation during his closing argument, including the moments after Gonzalez fell in front of the store after being shot, got back to his feet, then fell again and died.
Members of Gonzalez's family wept in the gallery while the video played out for the jury.
Hoffert said Rebollar was the higher ranking member in his street gang on the night of the confrontation, and Garcia was providing security when they confronted and killed Gonzalez. That association allows prosecutors to charge Rebollar with murder, he explained.
"Gabriel died because he was wearing a hat," Hoffert told the jury. "There was nothing offensive about the hat, but it was tipped to the right ... (Rebollar) grew up in a culture where having a hat tipped to the right is a death sentence."
Defense attorney Robert Ritacca spent the week deflecting gang "stereotypes" from Rebollar. He added Rebollar went to the parking lot to fight with Gonzalez, and was unaware Garcia was armed and willing to fire the weapon.
"This defendant didn't do one thing to kill Gabriel Gonzalez," Ritacca said. "He had no criminal intent, he had no criminal design, he had no criminal agreement to commit any kind of crime."
He added Rebollar had moved from Chicago to Round Lake to escape a gang life.
Garcia was found guilty of Gonzalez's murder this year and was sentenced to 62 years in prison.