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Chicago police release alleged cartel member suspected of shooting migrant trans woman

Chicago Police Department recent recruit graduates VLive nightclub Venezuelan community hangout
Chicago Police Department; facebook @vlivechicago

“They do not investigate these cases adequately,” says a local activist, while police say fear of the cartels is hampering their investigation.

The 29-year-old alleged cartel member suspected of shooting a migrant transgender woman outside a club in Chicago last month was let go by police without charges despite evidence connecting him to the crime, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The shooting took place outside VLive, a club and popular meeting place for new migrants from Venezuela, around 4:30 a.m. February 4. The suspect pulled alongside the 27-year-old victim in a Ford Explorer, exited the vehicle, approached the victim, and said “Bad gay” before shooting her “throughout the body,” according to police.

The attack left the woman, a recent migrant from Venezuela who is now a sex worker, in critical condition with wounds to the legs and groin, She and other potential witnesses are no longer cooperating with authorities out of fear of the suspect and his alleged ties to El Tren de Aragua, a violent cartel gang known for drug sales and human trafficking in Venezuela.

The unnamed suspected was taken into custody February 26 outside a courthouse in nearby Maywood after he had been arrested on multiple gun-related felonies two days earlier. A judge ordered him released again, but he was arrested again a short time later by waiting authorities.

A press release from the U.S. Marshals Service posted March 4, erroneously reported the suspect had been arrested and charged with the shooting and also misgendered the victim. The press release was pulled from the website the next day.

Shell casings and a Ford Explorer reportedly connect the suspect to the crime, but Cook County prosecutors told the Sun-Times that “no charging decision has been made at this time” and that the investigation continues.

That investigation has been hampered by a lack of cooperation from the victim and potential witnesses to the crime. “Our one witness who can positively identify the gunman will not cooperate any further,” police noted in a report.

Local activists decried the lack of action in the case, with one saying there is a two-tiered system of justice in heavily Latinx neighborhoods like Little Village, where the club is located.

“When it’s a gangbanger, a migrant, a trans woman, or a woman, they do not investigate these cases adequately,” activist Baltazar Enriquez told the Sun-Times.

Enriquez described the lack of prosecution in this and similar cases as doubly troubling for people in the area.

“That has been a problem in our community because the members feel revictimized,” Enriquez said. “Because now, they don’t have a family member and the aggressor is out on the streets.”

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