The admitted gang member and father of a 5-year-old boy killed nearly three years ago outside his Elgin home testified Monday that he knew the identity of the shooter but did not tell police because "I was seeking revenge on my own."
"I wanted to take care of it myself," said Eric Galarza Sr., father of Eric Galarza Jr., who was shot to death on Oct. 7, 2011, as he rode in a car with his parents, two younger siblings and an aunt.
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Galarza testified for the prosecution during day two of the murder trial of 29-year-old Miguel Hernandez Jr., who prosecutors say is a member of the same gang as Galarza. Prosecutors say Hernandez targeted Galarza for cooperating with agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms during an investigation of Elgin gang members.
They say Hernandez fired multiple rounds into the car the family was riding in, striking Eric Jr. in the head. No one else was injured during the early evening attack, which occurred as the family pulled out of the driveway to return a rented video.
Galarza, 33, testified that he joined the gang at age 13 and remained a member for 12 years until 2006.
That January, facing charges of drug possession and delivery, he agreed to work as a paid federal informant in exchange for having his cases dismissed, Galarza said.
While working as an ATF informant, he said he purchased guns and drugs and recorded conversations with fellow gang members, several of whom were later arrested. Labeled a snitch, Galarza was out of the gang. About a year before the murder, Galarza testified, he and a friend were driving and saw Hernandez raise his shirt and point to a pistol.
Under cross examination, Galarza admitted to multiple arrests, including convictions for battery in 2009 and 2011 and weapon possession in 2004. He admitted he is in prison, serving three years for domestic battery and one year for violation of bail bond. He also testified that he has a pending case involving the sale of drugs.
Galarza also admitted he fled to San Antonio, Texas, in June 2012, while his trial on an aggravated battery charge was pending, which resulted in U.S. marshals tracking him down and returning him to Illinois.
Galarza told Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Mike Clarke that prosecutors have not made him any offers for his testimony in this case.
"I'm doing it because my son deserves it," he said.
Elgin police officer Jason Lentz testified Monday that he found six semiautomatic shell casings near a tree west of where the shooting occurred. Lentz also found bullet fragments at the scene. So did Elgin officer Anthony Rigano, who testified he found bullet holes in the windshield, the passenger side mirror, the trunk, bumper and the back seat on the driver's side, among other places. Rigano also testified he found bullet fragments on the floorboard, dashboard and rear tire tread, among other places.
Prosecutors on Monday also introduced testimony from a woman who was near the Galarza home the night of the shooting. Cory Morgan identified Hernandez as the man she saw take off his shirt and run from the scene.
Testimony continues Tuesday in Rolling Meadows.