More than a year after a city worker was shot to death while driving home through Back of the Yards, prosecutors say evidence recovered from a cellphone found near the burned shell of an SUV used in the attack has led to the first charges in the case.
Terrell Jones, a 32-year-old employee of the Streets and Sanitation Department, was shot multiple times on March 17, 2018, as he rode in an SUV driven by his cousin, authorities said.
Albaro Guerrero-Garcia, 20, is accused of driving the gunmen, both of whom were armed with assault-style rifles, as they drove around the neighborhood in a Chevrolet Equinox, Cook County prosecutors said at Guerrero-Garcia’s bail hearing Wednesday. Chicago police said he was living in Gresham at the time of his arrest last week and charged with first-degree murder and aggravated battery with the use of a weapon in the shooting of Jones and his 27-year-old cousin.
Investigators recovered 23 shell casings at the scene from two different rifles and police POD cameras captured the shooting, prosecutors said.
Neither gunman had been charged as of Sunday. Chicago police say the shooting remains under investigation.
Guerrero-Garcia and his two accomplices all are members of the La Raza street gang who were on the hunt for rival gang members to attack that night, prosecutors said.
When Jones’ cousin stopped at a red traffic light at 50th Street and Ashland Avenue, the two shooters got out of the rear of the Equinox and opened fire on Jones’ SUV, according to prosecutors. Jones’ cousin was also wounded in the attack but survived and sped away to seek help at the Englewood District police station.
Jones and his cousin were only in Back of the Yards to save time on their way home, his family said. After encountering traffic on Eisenhower Expressway as they headed toward the city, they decided to get off at Ashland instead of taking the Dan Ryan.
Jones’ family is praying that the gunmen will be taken into custody next.
“Terrell was a hardworking, upright man, a family man,” his mother, Michelle Jones-Vincent said. “He wasn’t out in the streets. I wouldn’t have had that.”
Jones’ former Bureau of Forestry co-workers still call to check on the family and lament his loss to the department, Jones-Vincent said.
Jones’ younger brother, Ernest Leggs, an Air Force veteran who returned to Chicago in March, said if his brother had a passion for something, he put his all into it.
“He was the kind of guy where he got a job, learned it and then excelled at it,” Leggs said. “He loved working for the city.”
Prosecutors did not say on Wednesday why they think the alleged gang members targeted the SUV Jones was riding in, but his family believes it was a case of mistaken identity — likely by people who didn’t care who they were shooting at.
The Equinox the La Raza members used to carry out the shooting was later found on fire in an alley off the 2100 block of South Garfield Boulevard, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said Guerrero-Garcia admitted to burning the Equinox; they say he also told investigators he suffered severe burns to his legs while torching the vehicle. Prosecutors said Guerrero-Garcia had posted photos of the burns on Facebook, seeking medical advice.
A cellphone found near the burned SUV contained more evidence that Guerrero-Garcia was involved, prosecutors said.
Multiple photographs were recovered from the phone, including pictures of Guerrero-Garcia and other, still unidentified individuals holding assault-style rifles and wearing blue latex gloves, prosecutors said. A photo of an assault-style rifle was taken just hours before the shooting, and the words “Back of the Yards” were added to the photo hours after the shooting.
Police also recovered a video from the phone that was shot from inside a vehicle as it drove past the crime scene shortly after the murder, prosecutors said. Investigators determined the phone was at the same time and place as Jones, and also had circled back to record the video of police working the crime scene.
Finally, prosecutors said, Guerrero-Garcia also sent a message from the phone stating he had “just killed two people.”
Court records show Guerrero-Garcia was on probation at the time of the shooting.
He had been convicted of unlawful use of a weapon the year before; as a first-time offender, he received probation. He was convicted of violating that probation months later and sentenced to a year in prison, according to court records. He was later released on parole, according to records from the Illinois Department of Corrections.
Jones’ mother and brother say nothing will bring back their son, or provide his three children with a loving, attentive father they described as “Mr. Mom.”
If his killers had a father like Jones, they believe, they never would have been involved in a life of violence.
“You never had love, and now you’ve taken a father from his kids,” Jones’ mother said.
A year later, she said, she is able to talk about it but can’t help crying.
“I want them off the street,” Jones-Vincent said. “So they can’t do this again.”