Parolee charged in ‘heartless’ fatal shooting outside Portage Park bar, top cop says

Samuel Parsons-Salas carried out Sunday’s attack after being asked to leave a party for the bar owner’s niece, Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said Tuesday.

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Mercedes Imari, 24, Mario Pozuelos, 26, and Ricky Vera, 50, were killed in a shooting Sunday outside Vera Lounge in Portage Park.

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A recently paroled felon was charged Tuesday with killing three people and critically wounding another outside a Portage Park bar, where the city’s top cop said he carried out the “heartless” attack after being asked to leave a party for the owner’s niece.

Samuel Parsons-Salas, 32, faces felony counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder in the shooting that happened about 2:30 a.m. Sunday near the Vera Lounge in the 5500 block of West School Street, Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said at a news conference at police headquarters.

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Samuel Parsons-Salas

Chicago police

After a “disturbance” at the party, Parsons-Salas was asked to leave, Brown said. He was then caught on surveillance video getting a gun from a vehicle and opening fire during a subsequent confrontation.

Graphic video of the shooting that was shared with the Sun-Times shows a crowd gathering in the street before a gunman begins picking people off, apparently targeting some victims twice and at point-blank range. The video appears to show the shooter get into the passenger side of a dark SUV that drives away.

Mariah Vera, the bar owner’s niece and host of the party, had rushed to her father’s side. She was weeping over him and trying to tend to his wounds when the shooter walked up and shot her in her head, a law enforcement source said.

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Vera, 25, was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital in critical condition. Brown said she was “fighting for her life.” Her father, Ricky Vera, 50, was pronounced dead at the scene outside his brother’s bar.

Two of Mariah Vera’s friends were also killed: Mercedes Imari, a 24-year-old mother of a young boy and infant twins; and Mario Pozuelos, 26, a “beloved son, brother, nephew [and] cousin,” according to a GoFundMe page launched to cover his funeral costs.

“I want to extend my deepest condolences to the families of these victims,” Brown said. “We hope that these charges … bring some small sense of justice to these families.”

Parsons-Salas was arrested Monday after trying to run from SWAT officers, according to Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan. He also faces a felony kidnapping charge for taking a woman against her will after the shooting and holding her until his arrest.

Brown called for serious consequences in the “horrific” attack, apparently urging a judge to “throw away the key.”

“Get this person off our streets,” he added. “Don’t release him on electronic monitoring because he is a danger not only to this community but to the city of Chicago at large. Throw the book at him.”

Parsons-Salas has a lengthy criminal background and has served multiple prison stints.

In January 2014, he was charged in a deadly home invasion in Albany Park in which two people were shot to death, according to the defunct neighborhood news outlet DNAinfo Chicago. Parsons-Salas initially faced two counts of first-degree murder, but he pleaded guilty to two counts of armed home invasion, carrying eight-year prison sentences.

He was paroled in September, Brown said.

His accomplice, Christopher Doehring, was sentenced to life in prison for the killings, court records show. He also was convicted of home invasion.

Parsons-Salas has also been sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to charges of robbery and aggravated battery of a police officer, records show.

‘We are devastated’

An outpouring of support followed the shootings, with separate GoFundMe accounts set up to support the victims’ families.

“Please keep Mariah in your prayers and thoughts, as well as the memory of Rick,” Luis Ortiz said in a crowdfunding appeal for the Veras. “Let’s pray God helps ease the pain the Vera family is going through right now.”

Miguel Gordillo, the father of Imari’s children, described her on a separate GoFundMe page as “a wonderful mother to our three precious babies.”

“She absolutely adored our babies and made our family the center of her life,” Gordillo said. “She was especially excited to celebrate the holidays and was looking forward to gathering with our extended families and creating beautiful memories with our babies.”

“We are devastated,” he added.

Meanwhile, Pozuelos’ family said they were “at a loss for words.”

“He was taken from us too soon due to a senseless act of gun violence,” the family said. “Our Mario had his whole life ahead.”

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