Trial begins in gang-related shooting of Wheeling bystander
Prosecutors say an Arlington Heights man, angry that a fellow gang member had switched allegiance, fired a gun at a group of people standing on Pleasant Run Drive in Wheeling's Winetree Apartment complex about 9 p.m. May 1, 2013.
But Jesus Sanchez missed his intended target, a 15-year-old who had "flipped" on his gang, Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Mike Gerber said Tuesday as Sanchez's murder trial got underway in Rolling Meadows.
Sanchez decided to "wreak a little havoc" on the turncoat as a form of payback, Gerber said during opening statements. However, the bullet struck 23-year old Rafael Orozco, a bystander who was out walking his dog Gizmo.
"Being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Mr. Orozco was shot and killed," Gerber said.
Defense attorneys claimed no evidence links Sanchez, 20, to the murder and no witnesses saw him fire at Orozco. Moreover, the statement Sanchez gave police doesn't fit the physical evidence, said his attorney, Cook County Assistant Public Defender Julie Koehler.
Koehler says police identified Sanchez as a suspect because he was involved in two altercations with the gang rival earlier that day.
"Those two fights explain why Jesus Sanchez is sitting before you today," Koehler said, adding "his name was picked out of thin air."
Testifying for the prosecution, Sanchez's fellow gang member Miguel Cortes, 17, described Sanchez and several other young men chasing the rival gang member -- who Cortes called a "pancake" or "flip-flop" -- after he exited a school bus about 3:30 p.m. Cortes also described another altercation several hours later between the "pancake" and his new gang affiliates and Sanchez and his fellow gang members. During that altercation, Sanchez retrieved a machete hidden in a nearby park, Cortes said. However no one was injured.
Cortes said he Sanchez and some other people hung out for a while nearby, but testified he and a female friend headed back to his apartment about 8:30 p.m. They stopped at the streetlight to talk with his father, Orozco and some other neighbors when Cortes said he heard what sounded like firecrackers.
"I realized we were being shot at," he said, adding that he ran toward a building with his dad and Orozco, who told them he had been hit.
During cross examination, Cortes acknowledged that the 15-year-old had flip-flopped among three gangs and had "made a lot of enemies," said Koehler.
Cortes said he saw Sanchez and another friend about 20 minutes later being chased by the gang members they had fought with earlier.
Wheeling police Sgt. Michael Conway corroborated his story, testifying that he saw Sanchez, sweating profusely, and another man run toward him pursued by rival gang members.
Conway, one of the first officers on the scene, described it as "very chaotic" with about 50 people yelling, calling for an ambulance and shouting at police. Testimony continues Wednesday.