A Mundelein man could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of killing a Zion man because of the way he wore his hat, authorities said Thursday.
Jose Garcia, 18, of the 600 block of Deepwoods Drive, pleaded not guilty to three counts of first-degree murder during an arraignment hearing in front of Lake County Judge Daniel Shanes.
Lake County Assistant State's Attorney Reginald Mathews said first-degree murder normally carries a prison sentence of 20 years to a maximum of 60 years. However, the charges filed against Garcia are enhanced and could result in a life sentence, Mathews explained.
Garcia and Jose Rebollar-Verara, 25, of Round Lake Beach, are both charged with killing Gabriel Gonzalez, 19, in the early morning hours of March 10, authorities said.
Authorities said Gonzalez entered the One Stop Food and Liquor store on the 1000 block of Fairfield Road in Round Lake Beach about 12:40 a.m. and met known gang members Garcia and Rebollar-Verara.
Garcia and Rebollar-Verara wrongly assumed Gonzales was in a gang and that Gonzales was wearing his baseball hat incorrectly, authorities said.
After they asked him to put on his hat the way they wanted, Gonzales pushed past them and tried to leave, authorities said. But, Garcia and Rebollar-Verara followed Gonzales into the parking lot, and fired 10 shots at the victim from a .22-caliber handgun, authorities said.
One bullet hit Gonzales in the back and pierced his aorta artery, killing him.
Officials said the two men confessed to the shooting but claimed they did not know Gonzales was not a gang member.
Rebollar-Verara pleaded not guilty to the charges May 2.
Both Garcia and Rebollar-Verara each remain in Lake County jail on $3 million bond.
Garcia is due in court for a May 30 pretrial hearing.
Members of the Gonzalez family were in the courtroom, but declined to comment after the hearing.