Posted on October 6, 2021

Prosecutors Reject Charges Against 5 Suspects in Deadly Gang-Related Gunfight

Tom Schuba, Chicago Sun-Times, October 4, 2021

Five men linked to a deadly gang-related shootout Friday in Austin were released from custody after prosecutors declined to charge each of them with a pair of felonies, including first-degree murder, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

The brazen mid-morning gunfight, which left one shooter dead and two of the suspects wounded, stemmed from an internal dispute between two factions of the Four Corner Hustlers street gang, according to an internal police report and a law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation.

The source said police sought to charge all five suspects with murder and aggravated battery. By Sunday morning, a Chicago police spokeswoman acknowledged the suspects had “been released without charges.”

In a statement later Sunday, Cristina Villareal, a spokeswoman for the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, explained that prosecutors had “determined that the evidence was insufficient to meet our burden of proof to approve felony charges.” {snip}

While she wouldn’t specify what other evidence prosecutors needed to file charges, the police report acknowledged that victims of the shootout weren’t cooperating with investigators.

But the report also framed the state’s attorney’s office’s decision to decline charges in a different light: “Mutual combatants was cited as the reason for the rejection.” Mutual combat is a legal term used to define a fight or struggle that two parties willingly engage in.

Last week, Cook County prosecutors came under fire after reportedly making a similar argument after a teenager was stabbed to death during a fight in Schaumburg. The family of the victim, 18-year-old Manuel Porties Jr., later told WGN that prosecutors specifically said they weren’t charging the 17-year-old suspect with murder because the fatal fight amounted to mutual combat.

Meanwhile, as the city grapples with a spate of rolling shootouts that have erupted over the past week, the law enforcement source raised concerns that the rejection could encourage more brash violence. Much like those shootouts, the narrative of Saturday’s gun battle in Austin was reminiscent of an action movie scene.

“It’s just like the Wild West,” the source said of the exchange of gunfire in the violence-plagued neighborhood on the West Side.