Gang member who shot bullet through ATF agent’s head gets more than 16 years

“I felt blood pouring from my face and somehow making its way to the back of my mouth, obstructing my breathing,” ATF agent Kevin Crump said. His fellow agents didn’t know if he’d live.

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Ernesto Godinez has been charged in the shooting of a federal agent Friday in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. | Chicago Police Department photo

Ernesto Godinez

Chicago Police Department photo

Less than two years ago, Ernesto Godinez sent a bullet through Kevin Crump’s head.

Crump, an ATF special agent, had been on the job four months in May 2018. That’s when the bullet pierced his neck and left his body between his eyes. His fellow agents heard him make “noises that barely sounded human” as he fought for his life. He realized he might die.

Instead, he lived —a fact prosecutors called “nothing short of a miracle.” But more than that, Crump stood in front of a federal judge Wednesday and told his tale. He did so as the man convicted of shooting him stood a few feet away, court security watching him closely. Crump explained that his fellow agents had saved his life.

“Mr. Godinez would have left me in the street for dead,” Crump said.

U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber then sentenced Godinez, a 29-year-old reputed Latin Saints street gang member, to more than 16 years in prison. As he did so, the judge questioned whether a long sentence would actually deter others, noting the many gang trials that have occurred in the Dirksen Federal Courthouse.

“They don’t seem to run out of replacements,” Leinenweber said of Chicago’s street gangs.

Before he learned his sentence, Godinez thanked the judge “for listening to my case.” He offered a few encouraging words to his family and he promised to finish his GED. His lawyers later said he maintained his innocence, even after a federal jury in June convicted Godinez of shooting Crump.

Though he now faces a long prison stay, prosecutors had asked the judge to give Godinez nearly twice as much time behind bars.

Federal agents had been in the 4400 block of South Hermitage early on May 4, 2018, trying to replace a tracking device. An advance team had already driven through the area to scan for danger, records show, and gave an all-clear.

That’s when a second team arrived, and a group of agents in street clothes, including Crump, stepped out of a car to replace the tracking device. Nothing identified the agents as law enforcement. Godinez, who had been patrolling the area for the Latin Saints, thought the agents were rival gang members and opened fire from a gangway at 3:18 a.m., striking Crump.

In court Wednesday, Crump described his ride to the hospital after the shooting.

“I felt blood pouring from my face and somehow making its way to the back of my mouth obstructing my breathing,” Crump said. He said he expected to lose consciousness “and possibly never wake up.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kavitha Babu said the shooting made victims of Crump’s fellow agents, as well. She said they had to pick Crump up by his limbs and perform first aid, “not knowing if he was going to live.” She said they heard him “making noises that barely sounded human.”

Asking for a 30-year prison sentence, Babu also pointed to Godinez’s criminal history. From age 15 to 28, when he was arrested for shooting Crump, the feds say Godinez had been arrested 13 times and convicted six.

Babu also added: “It cannot be that you shoot a federal agent in the head and you still get out of prison young enough to go right back to being a shooter.”

But Gal Pissetzky, one of Godinez’s defense attorneys, said Godinez shouldn’t be punished more because he shot a federal agent. He said Godinez didn’t even know they were agents, and Leinenweber agreed, calling the shooting of Crump “happenstance.”

“A life is a life,” Pissetzky said.

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