Police: Video Shows Gang Punishing One of Their Own
Chicago Tribune via Yellowbrix
March 15, 2011
CHICAGO – The beating officially started with a quick crack to the back of the gang member’s head. And then about 15 others descended, punching and kicking him for two minutes.
The rapid-fire punches landed from all directions on his body, sounding strangely like corn popping. Then the victim fell to the floor and the group continued to pummel him with punches and kicks.
The gang member at the bottom of the heap, a Latin King in the Cicero section, was there for his “violation,” punishment in gang parlance. He had allegedly failed to follow through on an order from one of the four ranking Latin King members now on trial in federal court in Chicago.
The beatdown, planned ahead of time and carried out by his own fellow gang members, is not unusual on the street. But in the darkened federal courtroom as a secretly recorded videotape of the beating was aired to the jury, it was a disturbing reflection of the violence that drives and unites gangs.
The four alleged Latin Kings — Augustin Zambrano, Vicente Garcia, Alphonso Chavez and Jose Guzman — are accused of racketeering, drug conspiracy and weapons offenses while running the 26th Street section of the Latin Kings. The gang’s influence reached into the suburbs, the reason prosecutors featured the west suburban beating in the trial.
It is an example, prosecutors said, of the violence that was orchestrated on behalf of the gang. Garcia, accused of being a “regional officer” for the gang, allegedly had ordered the punishment in an attempt to mediate a dispute between two Latin King members.
Gang literature, entered into evidence earlier at the trial, demands loyalty to a gang hierarchy. It references violations and protecting neighborhoods with guns.
Over two days of testimony, Nedal Issa, who headed the Cicero Latin Kings and oversaw the videotaped violation, explained to the jury how the beating unfolded.
Issa, who joined the gang at 13 and was promoted to “Inca” by 2006, had to mediate a dispute between one of his members — identified only as “Chongo” in the trial — and a Latin King from a different section.
“I was the Inca,” said Issa, who cooperated with authorities after he was caught up in the same federal conspiracy probe as the defendants. “So it was my responsibility to make sure none of the guys was involved in anything like that.”
But no solution was found, so the problem wound up in Garcia’s hands, Issa testified.
“Since we couldn’t resolve it, that’s when the Latin King nation got involved,” he said.
Garcia ultimately decided that Chongo would be “violated” for the dispute and as a further punishment should shoot at a rival gang member within 72 hours, Issa testified he was told.
When Chongo failed to carry out the shooting, Issa was ordered to a meeting by Garcia. There Issa was violated, suffering fractured ribs and bruises in the attack, he testified.
Issa then followed through on the order to have Chongo violated. The March 2006 beating was captured by a video camera hidden by agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in a gang hangout with the help of an informant within the Latin Kings.
The lights in the courtroom in the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse were turned off Thursday as the black-and-white footage played.
As the punches accelerated — with some of the gang members landing blows with both arms — the victim can be heard grunting and groaning. At one point as the beating stopped, Issa called out, “Don’t stop, don’t stop,” he acknowledged in court.
Under cross-examination, attorneys for the four reputed gang leaders repeatedly asked Issa about his extensive criminal history and his hopes of receiving a break in his sentence for his cooperation. He also admitted that when he went to the hospital for medical care after his violation, he lied about his legal name to avoid paying the bill.
Nishay Sanan, one of the lawyers, pointed out that Issa lied for a “benefit” at the hospital and then asked him: “You’re also asking the government to give you a benefit here, right?”