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Gang member said ‘I feel good’ after shooting ATF agent: feds

Ernesto Godinez was charged after authorities say he shot the federal agent in Back of the Yards in May 2018 after mistaking him for a rival gang member.

Ernesto Godinez is on trial in the shooting of a federal agent in Back of the Yards neighorhood. | Chicago Police Department
Ernesto Godinez
Chicago Police Department

After he shot an ATF agent in the face last year, Ernesto Godinez told an acquaintance, “I feel good,” federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

Day one of Godinez’s trial at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse kicked off Tuesday morning, with prosecutors alleging that Godinez shot the agent because he thought he was a rival gang member.

Godinez, a member of the Latin Saints street gang, was following the rules of the organization, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kavitha Babu said. Those rules included protecting Latin Saints territory in the Back of the Yards community and shooting rival gang members.

His attorneys, meanwhile, maintain that he had no role in the shooting — and that video surveillance, combined with statements of other agents, will prove as much.

Godinez, 29, was charged last May with shooting the agent in the face as he and other law enforcement officers were trying to place tracking devices on several vehicles in Back of the Yards as part of a prolonged investigation. The agent survived the shooting.

In his opening statement, Lawrence Hyman, one of Godinez’s lawyers, said that another agent who was at the scene said the shooter was wearing a white shirt. Godinez, however, was wearing a black shirt at the time.

“Ernesto Godinez wore black,” Hyman said. “Members of the jury, the shooter wore white.”

“There is no physical evidence that points to Ernesto Godinez firing this gun,” he added.

Sitting at the defense table, Godinez’s physical appearance was far different than it was 13 months ago when he surrendered to authorities. Wearing glasses, a black sports coat and blue dress shirt, Godinez’s hair — once a thick mane of black — had been trimmed short and his patchy facial hair shaved.

The first witness called was ATF agent Daniel Winter, who was on the 11-person team tasked with surveilling the area and placing the trackers on vehicles.

After the shooting, Winter said he went to check on the agent, who was standing slumped over a nearby vehicle.

The agent’s speech was “muffled,” Winter said.

“His hands were over his face and I could feel the blood when I put my hands on his face,” he testified.

The agent who was shot will testify later in the trial and “he will tell you a bullet went through his head,” Babu said.

Federal prosecutors also plan to call a former member of the Latin Saints who is expected to tell jurors about the gang’s organization and structure.

Babu said the man will testify in exchange for immigration assistance. Lyman said the government is relying on the testimony of a man whose credibility is “of the greatest suspect.”

They said, ‘We won’t deport you if you work for us,’” Lyman said.