Teen Dies After Brutal Beating in Front of Pregnant Girlfriend

By Geoff ZiezulewiczKyla Gardner and Emily Morris  on January 10, 2013 6:50am  | Updated on January 10, 2013 2:41pm

CLEARING — Before 17-year-old Ezequiel Velasquez was beaten to death in Brighton Park, his family said they had moved away from the area in an attempt to help him turn his life around.

But they couldn't save the expectant father, who died nearly two weeks after he and his 22-year-old girlfriend suffered a horrific attack by a group of men on New Year's Day, officials and family said.

His mother, Lydia Velasquez, said the family left their home in Brighton Park four years ago and moved to Clearing to escape the troubled area, but her son still had friends there.

He had been involved with gangs, police said. But Ezequiel had been trying to leave all that behind, his mother said.

"He was trying to turn his life around and get out of that, getting his gang tattoos removed and going back to school," Lydia Velasquez said. "That's the hardest part. He was trying to do that for his baby."

"That was the whole reason we moved here," she said, trying to hold back her tears.

On Jan. 1 sometime before 6 a.m., the teen was driving with his girlfriend in a Chrysler Sebring heading west on 40th Street when he encountered a dark-colored Chevy Suburban blocking the street in the 2900 block, officials and family members said.

His girlfriend, Amber Luna, said they were driving a friend home at the time.

The friend got out to tell the SUV driver to move, she recalled. Two guys jumped from the back of the vehicle and started fighting with him, she said. Ezequiel jumped out to help and was attacked by other guys in the SUV, Luna said.

The men were between 17 and 20 years old, police said. In a conflicting account, police said one of the men walked up to Ezequiel's car and asked if he had any gas. According to police, the teen was yanked from the car after he said he didn't.

Luna said she was dragged by her hair across the street but wasn't injured. She then ran to the nearby house of Ezequiel's cousin for help.

"By the time we got back he was on the ground," she said.

Footprints were all over her boyfriend's face, Luna said.

Luna said she doesn't know where his friend went.

Police said the men used the car Ezequiel was driving to push their SUV away from the scene. The car, which Luna said belonged to her, was later found in the 4300 block of South Campbell Avenue, according to police. She said her car was found burnt.

Ezequiel was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital in serious condition. His condition fluctuated, giving his family some hope, but soon he took a turn for the worse.

He was pronounced dead at 9:15 a.m. Wednesday, according to police and the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office.

Luna is more than five months pregnant, she said. She and Ezequiel's family said he was excited to become a father.

"He was so outgoing and very silly," Lydia Velasquez said of her son, nicknamed Izzy. "He could walk into a room and make everybody laugh."

His mother said police didn't contact her after her son was beaten. She found out from his girlfriend, Lydia Velasquez said.

"This is just very hard for us," his grandmother, Gracie Rivas, said.

Luna said her boyfriend was a reliable man.

"Everybody counted on him," Luna said. "Izzy went out of his way to make sure he gave whatever it is he had."

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