A reputed gang leader was ordered held without bond Monday for allegedly ordering a shooting that left a toddler dead during a birthday party in Hermosa earlier this month.
Alexander Varela, 27, directed another man to to shoot into a crowd after a “simple and petty argument” between two women at the gathering that 2-year-old Julien Gonzalez was attending, authorities said on Monday.
Varela, who lived on the block, was not invited to the Oct. 6 party, but chose to “insert himself in the argument” said Brendan Deenihan, deputy chief of the Chicago police’s Bureau of Detectives.
“This is a reprehensible example of a culture we need to change. That is, we have simple disputes that are constantly being settled by pulling the trigger,” Deenihan said.
Varela is facing murder, attempted murder and aggravated battery charges connected to Julien’s death.
The shooting happened shortly after 10 p.m. that night when an argument at the party spilled into the 4400 block of West Belden Avenue, Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Jamie Santini said during Varela’s bond hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse.
Varela, the alleged leader of the BK faction of the Maniac Latin Disciples, approached the group and wanted to know why they were fighting in an area he claimed was his gang’s territory, Santini said. Partygoers denied they were affiliated with a gang and Varela allegedly threatened to kill any rival gang members.
When others from the party came out during the confrontation, a fight ensued and Varela yelled out, “Bust, bust, bust” — an order for an armed member of the BK faction to start shooting, Santini said.
As the partygoers ran for cover, an 18-year-old man heading for an alley saw Julien coming out the back gate from the house where the party took place, Santini said. The man scooped up the boy and was running toward the home when the gunfire erupted. The unidentified shooter fired at least 10 shots from a handgun equipped with a laser sight, Santini said. Detectives later found 9-mm shell casings at the scene that preliminary testing showed were fired from the same gun.
Deenihan said the toddler had been following his father through the alley before he was shot.
Julien, of Clearing, was struck in the neck and taken to Stroger Hospital, where he died later that night. The 18-year-old was shot in his back and left leg and taken to Illinois Masonic Medical Center, where his condition was stabilized.
An arrest report showed Varela was taken into custody on Friday in Ukrainian Village.
Prosecutors said Varela is facing a misdemeanor charge of unlawful use of a weapon in an unrelated case and has previous convictions for domestic battery and driving on a suspended license.
Varela grew up in the city and has worked for several years as a dispatcher for Lincoln Towing, according to Assistant Public Defender Julie Koehler.
View this document on ScribdBefore the bond hearing Monday, Deenihan and Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) credited witnesses for their help in the case.
Several witnesses had identified Varela and said he gave a “direct order” to start shooting, police and prosecutors said.
A “roll call” of 125 residents and police officers two days after the shooting had generated several tips in the case, Villegas said.
“This is a perfect example of the community stepping forward and teaming up with my office as well as CPD, to try to bring some justice to this senseless killing. As the father myself of two boys, this tragedy has really stuck with me,” Villegas said.
The 25th police district, which covers a band of the northwest side from Hermosa west to the city limits, has seen a substantial drop in murders and other forms of violent crime this year, according to numbers compiled by the police department.
Up to this point in 2017, the district saw 31 murders, compared to 20 so far this year.
Gonzalez was the youngest person to be fatally shot in the city this year, according to the Sun-Times records. Previously, 10-year-old twins who were shot to death by their father before he turned the gun on himself at their West Rogers Park home, were the youngest victims.