COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — Left paralyzed by gunfire, Andrew Ruiz was using sticks to control the gas and brake pedals of his car when he killed a Logan Square man in a drive-by because "it was Halloween and somebody was going to die," prosecutors said.
The paraplegic gangbanger is facing trial this week in a 2009 Halloween shooting that left 23-year-old Manny Roman dead and another man wounded. The purported Maniac Latin Disciple is also accused in a separate case in the unrelated murder of another man on the Eisenhower Expressway in 2010.
Having lost the use of his legs in a shooting almost 15 years ago, Ruiz listened from his wheelchair Monday as prosecutors laid out the allegations, painting him as a monster. Expected witnesses Tuesday include others in the car with Ruiz at the time of the shooting.
"Please don't believe there's a good reason for what happened," Assistant State’s Attorney Daniel Reedy said Monday during opening statements. “He said, ‘It’s Halloween night; somebody is going to die."'
But defense attorneys argued that Ruiz was also a victim, an innocent man named by three supposed witnesses who wanted to collect a reward offered by Roman’s family for information leading to a conviction.
“The $10,000 question is, who shot Manny Roman?” Amber Miller said. “It’s also tragic that three girls tried to profit off his death.”
Defense attorneys said that Ruiz couldn't have killed Roman, claiming that he spent the night at a Halloween party. Other partygoers had to carry Ruiz inside. There, he eventually passed out and remained until morning, they said.
They argued that Ruiz, who left the Maniac Latin Disciples in 2000 after he was shot five times in the chest, was no longer a threat.
Prosecutors, though, painted a different picture: The day of the murder, Emanuel "Manny" Roman, 23, got off work at the barbershop early to take his 4-year-old twin sons trick-or-treating. Afterward, he joined a relative for a night out, a rare treat for the young father.
They went to the West Side, where some friends were street racing, but stayed only briefly, opting instead to smoke pot, Roman's relative testified Monday.
They stopped at a gas station near Grand and Central avenues to buy a few cigars to roll into blunts, Reedy said. As they were pulling away, Roman's relative, who was driving, stopped at a light at Central Park and Grand avenues.
Meanwhile, Ruiz was driving a car full of girls heading to a party on the West Side. At some point, he told the girls that "somebody is going to die," prosecutors said. He then pulled up next to the car carrying Roman and his relative and started shooting, Reedy said.
"The case went unsolved," Reedy said. But in the summer of 2010, shortly after Roman's family posted a $10,000 reward, police got a break.
They eventually identified three women, also affiliated with the Maniac Latin Disciples, who were in the car with Ruiz when he pulled the trigger, prosecutors said, and all three identified Ruiz as the killer.
One of the bullets hit Roman's spinal column. He was taken to the hospital and kept alive on life support for 35 days, but he never regained consciousness.