Trial begins for Streamwood man charged with killing ‘best and only’ friend

The trial of a Streamwood man charged with fatally shooting a man described as his best and only friend commenced Monday in a Cook County courtroom.

Salvatore Scardino, 29, is charged with first-degree murder in the April 22, 2022 death of 31-year-old Kwemi Hardwick of Streamwood, hours after prosecutors say the two friends argued over video gambling winnings.

In his opening statement, Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Jamison Berger described how the two men had spent an evening eating and drinking at Bannerman’s Sports Grill in Bartlett.

Later they argued over video gambling winnings, and Scardino became aggressive, leading Hardwick to drive away, Berger said. About that same time, a witness reported to police he saw a man outside the bar speaking loudly and pulling a handgun from his waistband, the prosecutor said.

“He (Scardino) felt his best and only friend had abandoned him and he was embarrassed,” Berger said.

Later, Hardwick went to Scardino’s apartment where the argument continued, livestreamed by the defendant who told police his friend grabbed him around the throat and pushed him to the couch. As Hardwick began to leave the home, Scardino shot him in the back, according to Berger.

“But the defendant didn’t stop there,” he said, adding that Scardino shot Hardwick two more times, including once in the head.

Defense attorney Matt Keenan called the shooting “a terrible tragedy” during his opening statement in which he told the court Hardwick showed up unannounced at Scardino’s apartment and banged on the door.

“Mr. Hardwick was in fact acting in an aggressive way,” Keenan said.

Streamwood police officer Garrett O’Keefe testified he arrived at the scene about 10:45 p.m. April 22 and encountered Scardino sitting in a lawn chair inside an open garage.

“He kept saying ‘I did not do it. I did not mean to do it’ over and over,” said O’Keefe, who described the defendant as “anxious and shaking.”

O’Keefe also testified Scardino told him his best friend choked him and he had to defend himself.

Detective Frank Moreno conducted a videotaped interview with Scardino which prosecutors played for Cook County Judge Joseph Cataldo, who is hearing the case instead of a jury at Scardino’s request.

During the interview, Scardino told police Hardwick “tried to strangle me, take things from the house and said ‘shoot me then’ … that was it. That was the end of the story.”

He told police he shot his friend two more times because “I’m not going to sit there and let (him) suffer.”

Prosecutors also played a video which shows Scardino complaining about his friend the night of the shooting before a voice is heard outside the door. Hardwick enters and a tussle ensues before the video cuts out.

Testimony continues Tuesday.

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