Streamwood man convicted of murder in fatal 2022 shooting of friend

A Streamwood man who claimed he was defending himself and his property when he fatally a shot a friend in 2022 was convicted of first-degree murder Tuesday after a two-day bench trial.

Moments after closing arguments concluded, Cook County Judge Joseph Cataldo found Salvatore Scardino, 29, guilty of murdering Kwemi Hardwick, 31, who Scardino described as his best friend.

Cataldo said he found there was “absolutely no threat of imminent death or great bodily harm” that justified Scardino shooting the unarmed Hardwick three times, including a final shot to the victim’s head as he laid moaning on the floor of Scardino’s apartment.

“This was someone who was angry,” Cataldo said. “He shot (Hardwick) out of anger. He shot him until he was dead and he made absolutely sure of that.”

Prosecutors say the two friends spent the late afternoon and early evening April 22, 2022 drinking and eating at a Bartlett sports bar where Hardwick won $1,000 on a video slot machine.

An argument over the winnings ensued. A bartender and friend of the two men testified she heard them “intensely talking” and that a short time later she watched an “amped up” Scarabino pace outside the bar. Ultimately, Hardwick drove away from the bar leaving behind an angry Scardino, according to authorities.

Sometime later, Scardino was “ranting and raving” about Hardwick while livestreaming over social media, prosecutors said. In recordings played in court, Scardino complains about Hardwick treating him badly and threatens the victim, saying he should “die slow.” The recordings also show Scardino making statements about harming himself.

Hardwick later showed up at Scardino’s home, where the two continued to argue before the deadly shooting, authorities said.

Responding to defense claims that Hardwick initiated the violence by choking Scardino and pushing him down onto a couch, Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Ashley Behncke said the livestreamed video doesn’t show the defendant struggling for breath, crying or calling 911 before it briefly cuts out.

If there was a risk to Scardino, it had passed by the time the video resumes and the defendant can be seen sitting on the couch, Behncke said during her closing argument.

Though Scardino claimed Hardwick also had taken his belongings, specifically a bottle of cologne, Behncke said he shot Hardwick as he was leaving the apartment.

“Intent followed every bullet,” she said, with “the last bullet intended only to kill, not to defend himself.”

“You’re not allowed to shoot somebody dead over a bottle of cologne,” she added.

But defense attorney Michael E. Baker said prosecutors’ arguments didn’t fit the facts of the case. Baker reminded the court that it was Hardwick who showed up at Scardino’s home to continue their argument from earlier in the evening.

Baker also noted that Scardino was captured on the livestream asking Hardwick why he was behaving aggressively and urging him to calm down. Additionally, Scardino can be heard on the video saying “I’m not going to shoot you” and telling Hardwick not to “touch his stuff,” Baker said.

“(Scardino was) reasonable in his belief that the use of deadly force (was necessary) to prevent the commission of a felony,” Baker said.

After the killing, Baker noted, Scardino called police and allowed officers to search his home.

“He had nothing to hide,” he said. “He didn’t believe he did anything wrong.”

Scardino is scheduled to return to court June 10 for possible sentencing. He faces a minimum 45-year prison term.

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