Two teenage Latin Saints took a Sunday drive through the Heart of Chicago neighborhood looking for Satan Disciples to kill.
They stopped at 22nd and Leavitt.
That’s when a gangbanger with a black pistol got out of the van and fired four shots into a crowd — and three bullets fatally struck 14-year-old Michael Orozco, allegedly a young Satan Disciple.
The shooter got back in the van, and the wheelman sped off.
Too often in Chicago that’s how the story ends.
So many gang-related murders go unsolved because witnesses are either afraid or unwilling to cooperate with police. That’s the pervasive effect of the “no snitch” code of silence that keeps so many shooters on the street.
On Sunday, good people in the Heart of Chicago refused to keep quiet — and that made all the difference.
An witness who spotted the gunman get into a green minivan wrote down the license plate number and called 911.
Police officers spotted the minivan speeding east on Cermak. The minivan soon crashed near Ashland.
There, officers arrested 17-year-old Javier Garza Jr. and 19-year-old Damien Garza.
“Multiple witnesses” came forward to tell detectives that they saw Javier shoot up the crowd and that the tattoo-faced Damien was driving the minivan, authorities said.
“What happened was sad, but the silver lining is how quickly perpetrators were apprehended. It sets a good example to the rest of the city, especially in tough areas where there’s a history of people being afraid and too intimidated to cooperate,” Ald. Daniel Solis (25th) said.
“Without the good work of those witnesses, being able to identify the offenders seems very unlikely.”
Let’s make something clear: The witnesses that helped police catch Javier and Damien are not snitches.
A snitch is a criminal who rats out his associates.
Let me give you an example of a snitch: Damien, the alleged getaway driver.
Despite Latin Saints gang loyalty tattooed on his face, Damien identified Javier as the shooter in a videotaped confession to detectives, prosecutors said.
Damien said Javier wanted revenge against the Satan Disciples, the street gang responsible for killing his father in 2001, prosecutors said.
On Sunday, Javier talked about wanting to “smoke an SD” to avenge his father's death, prosecutors said. In the moments before he allegedly pulled the trigger, Damien says Javier repeated the phrase “DK” — that’s slang for “Disciple killer."
Damien went on to identify the alleged murder weapon — a .45-caliber pistol police found in the minivan, according to court papers.
After all that snitching, prosecutors charged both Javier and Damien with murder.
On Tuesday, a Cook County judge ordered Javier held in jail without bail and set Damien’s bail at $1 million.
Chalk that up as a victory for folks in the Heart of Chicago — and a lesson for the rest of us.
If we can find enough courage to stand up for our neighbors, the snitches, well, they just might rat out themselves.