Testimony concludes in Wheeling shooting trial
The prosecution and the defense rested Thursday after presenting their evidence in the case of an Arlington Heights man charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of a Wheeling man.
Prosecutors say Jesus Sanchez, 20, was aiming at a rival gang member when he fired at a group of neighbors standing beneath a streetlight in the Winetree Apartments complex on Pleasant Run Drive in Wheeling.
Angry at a then-15-year-old rival who had quit Sanchez's gang to join another, Sanchez fired four bullets into the small group that included the 15-year-old target at about 9 p.m. on May 1, 2013, prosecutors said.
One of the bullets struck 23-year-old bystander Rafael Orozco, who was out walking his dog Gizmo at the time.
Defense attorneys say no witnesses saw Sanchez fire a weapon and no evidence links him to the shooting. They say the physical evidence does not match the statement Sanchez gave to police, who they believe focused their investigation on Sanchez because he had been involved in several altercations with the gang rival earlier that day.
Prosecutors played for jurors Sanchez' interrogation video with Wheeling police detectives during which the then-18-year-old sobs, insists he didn't have a gun and repeats over and over: "I didn't shoot nobody ... I didn't do anything."
The detectives repeatedly suggest to Sanchez that the shooting was an accident, that he didn't mean for it to happen and that he should clear his conscience -- "take that burden off your shoulders" -- by telling them the truth. They also tell him that several friends who were with him that night identified him as the shooter.
"I have everybody else telling me it was you," said Wheeling detective Ignacio Oropeza on the video.
"I didn't do anything," replies Sanchez in the video which also shows him admitting to detectives that he held the gun but another friend took the weapon out of his hand.
Defense attorneys dispute the prosecution's claims. They say police forced Sanchez into confessing. On cross examination, Cook County Assistant Public Defender Calvin Aguilar got Oropeza to admit that he lied to Sanchez when he told the teen other people identified him as the shooter.
"You were looking for a confession," Aguilar said.
"We were looking to get the truth and facts," Oropeza replied.
"He finally gave you what you were looking for, a confession," Aguilar said a few minutes later.
"Yes," said Oropeza.
Defense witness Martin Cortez, father of one of Sanchez' friends, testified he was standing with Orozco at the time of the shooting. He said he heard gunshots, several of which struck a light pole and satellite dish, and saw a flash coming from south of where the men were standing.
Defense attorneys also introduced evidence from Wheeling detective Michael Wasowicz, supervisor in the department's forensic division, who said he determined the bullet that struck the satellite dish could have come only from someone firing south to north.
Defense attorneys contrasted that statement with Sanchez' statement to police that he fired from north to south, an inconsistency defense attorneys say points to a shooter other than Sanchez.
Closing arguments are scheduled for Friday morning.