CHICAGO (CBS)— A purported gang member has been charged with murder for allegedly ordering a Hermosa neighborhood shooting that left a 2-year-old boy dead and an 18-year-old man wounded.
Alexander Varela has been charged with one count of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder, and one count of aggravated battery.
Police said they are still searching for the gunman and others involved in the death of 2-year-old Julien Gonzalez.
The shooting happened around 10:15 p.m. on Oct. 6, during a house party in the 2200 block of North Kilbourn Avenue.
Two women got into a fight that night, and it spilled out into an alley.
Julien was standing on the sidewalk with an 18-year-old man at the mouth of the alley, when Varela allegedly ordered a fellow gang member to start shooting.
“There was a petty argument between a couple of women, and this offender – who lives on the block, who’s a gang member – he’s the one who chose to insert himself into the argument,” Chicago Police Deputy Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan said.
“He wasn’t at the party. He wasn’t invited to the party, but he’s a gang member, and he thinks he owns the block. So he’s going to come down there and insert himself into the argument. ‘I don’t want you arguing on my block. This is my territory.’ And then what happens, right? This escalates.”
A bullet struck Julien in the neck, and the 18-year-old was shot in the leg. Gonzalez was taken to Stroger Hospital in critical condition, and later was pronounced dead. The 18-year-old was taken to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, where he was stabilized.
Police said both victims were innocent bystanders who had nothing to do with the fight.
Detectives spent the past two weeks investigating the shooting, and finally got a break in the case when someone in the community came forward with information. They described what witnesses did as brave and courageous.
Ald. Gilbert Villegas, of the 36th ward said Gonzalez’s slaying marks the first murder of the year in the Hermosa neighborhood.
“To have it happen to a two-year-old is just very sad and I think that you can sense the frustration from the community—that they are just tired of this,” Villegas said.
Community activist Robert Torres lives a few blocks away from the shooting. He said more works needs to be done to solve murders in Chicago.
“Everybody plays a part,” Torres said. “We all play a big part to make a difference and we just showed the power of (what) unity does in our community.”