COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — Ray Washington, a reputed leader of the notorious Four Corner Hustlers street gang, was cut down in a hail of gunfire on the West Side in 2009, his body riddled with 25 bullets.
At Wednesday's start of the trial of one of the men accused of killing him, a defense attorney told jurors the onslaught of gunfire was simply self-defense.
Reginald Royal, 36, and two other men are charged with murder in the shooting of Washington, 38, who was standing outside a two-flat he owned on West Flournoy Street when he was shot in what police said was a gang beef.
A Chicago Housing Authority inspector meeting with Washington at the time to review his building for the Section 8 voucher program was shot in the groin but survived. At the time of Washington's death, the Chicago Tribune reported Washington was a leader of the Four Corner Hustlers who dabbled in real estate holdings in Highland Park, where he lived, and on the South Side.
Royal's attorney, Jeffrey Moskowitz, didn't deny his client shot Washington, but he said Royal was protecting himself. Not only did Washington order a hit on Royal, he also appeared to be reaching for a gun that day on West Flournoy, Moskowitz said.
"Try to put yourself in Reggie's shoes," Moskowitz told jurors while explaining Royal's frame of mind on the warm April afternoon in 2009. "His adrenaline kicks in. ... His heart races. He's terrified and fearing for his life."
Prosecutors allege Royal and Lonnial Roundtree, 24 — along with alleged getaway driver Terrance Hilson — were gunning for Washington when they pulled up to the curb on Flournoy, jumped out of a car and shot Washington and a CHA inspector.
The CHA inspector, who spent two decades in the Air Force, took the stand Wednesday.
He told jurors he heard a volley of shots, turned toward the sound and was immediately hit in the groin.
"I went down, stayed down and didn't get up," said the CHA inspector. "I wanted to play dead."
A short time later, while EMTs worked on the CHA inspector in an ambulance at the scene, police brought Royal back in handcuffs and asked if he was the shooter.
The CHA inspector identified Royal then, and he did so again Wednesday when Assistant State's Attorney Thomas Darman asked him to point out the man who shot him.
Royal is not denying he fired the shots. But Washington had been issuing death threats and had a "hit out" on Royal, Moskowitz told jurors.
After Royal and his co-defendant were almost killed in a drive-by shooting earlier the same day, the two decided to meet with Washington to "hash out a peace treaty," Moskowitz said.
But when Washington saw them pull up to his house in the 3800 block of West Flournoy, "he smirked ... and reached for his waistband," Moskowitz said.
Royal assumed he had a gun, and thought he was going to die, his attorney said.
The CHA inspector testified that Washington didn't appear to have a gun. One of the Chicago police officers who chased Royal down when he allegedly tried to escape, said no guns were recovered besides the two allegedly used by the defendants.
But according to Moskowitz, it doesn't matter much whether Washington was armed or not.
"When we are afraid, shadows become monsters," he said.
"It's the Village of Winnetka versus Little Village ... the Gold Coast versus Bronzeville," he said. "[People] have different ideas about what is reasonable. Reggie Royal's experience comes from the West Side."
The trial continues Thursday at the Cook County Criminal Courthouse.