COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — A man accused in a McKinley Park hit-and-run used his white SUV as a murder weapon, prosecutors said during a court hearing Wednesday.
Thomas Santiago, 20, is charged with murder in the fatal hit-and-run that killed a young McKinley Park man Saturday night.
His victim, Antonio Mendez, was driving with two friends in a Chevy Cavalier on Archer Avenue when a man in a white SUV came after them, prosecutors said.
The Cavalier swerved multiple times to avoid the white SUV, prosecutors said. But when Mendez and his friends parked and stepped out of his car, the driver pulled a U-turn and hit the gas.
Santiago allegedly drove the SUV over a curb, a sidewalk and then across a grassy area before hitting Mendez in the 1800 block of West 33rd Place and then fleeing, according to Assistant State's Attorney Glen Runk.
One or more people in the Cavalier had been involved in an argument with Santiago, police said. Mendez and his friends got out of the car and were approaching the white SUV when Santiago ran him over.
Santiago, of the 1100 block of West 32nd Street, works as a forklift operator at UPS and is the father of three, defense attorney Todd Urban said.
He has tattoos on both his right and left leg of a crown, which can symbolize gang affiliation. However, police records give no indication that Santiago was in a gang.
The victim was a documented gang member, according to police.
Mendez was once employed in guest services at U.S. Cellular Field, according to his mother, who called him "someone who loved life and liked to be happy."
Cook County Judge Donald Panarese Jr. ordered Santiago held on $900,000 bail.
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