Convicted felon charged with murdering man caught in gun battle in Austin

Kenny Winters, 42, was killed after he walked toward two men who were fighting in the 1600 block of North Cicero Avenue Friday night.

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A man is charged with filing a false report after fleeing from a traffic stop Feb. 11, 2021, on the South Side.

A man is charged with murder in connection with a fatal shooting from Feb. 5, 2021, in Austin.

Sun-Times file photo

A convicted felon is facing murder charges after a victim was caught in a gun battle between the felon and another man in Austin last week.

Kenny Winters was killed Friday after he walked toward two men who were fighting in the parking lot of a liquor store in the 1600 block of North Cicero Avenue, Cook County prosecutors said Monday.

It’s unclear whether Winters was looking to defuse the confrontation or merely observe it. But the verbal argument between Jason Bergollo and his rival escalated when the rival started to push Bergollo, 35, Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said.

Surveillance video shows Bergollo walking away with a gun in his hand before he allegedly started shooting at the man he was arguing with. The man who Bergollo was targeting took cover behind a parked vehicle. That uncharged man then returned fire, striking Winters in the right back and leg, Murphy said.

Winters, 42, was later taken to Stroger Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

When the gunman who hit Winters went back to his car to drive away, he and Bergollo exchanged gunfire once again, Murphy said.

Bergollo also drove away at a high rate of speed, according to responding officers and a ShotSpotter alert, Murphy said. Bergollo allegedly didn’t stop for the pursuing police cars that had their lights and sirens activated. Even after his female passenger exited the car and disposed of two handguns in the snow, Bergollo refused to stop his car, striking multiple parked cars in the process, Murphy said.

After officers attempted to make a blockade with their cars in the 3100 block of West Belmont Avenue, Bergollo crashed into a marked police car before his car became inoperable, Murphy said. Bergollo was arrested after a short foot chase, and the two guns that were thrown in the snow were recovered, Murphy said.

Officers also found six shell casings in Bergollo’s car as well as a clear plastic bag that contained a substance believed to be cocaine, Murphy said.

Bergollo, a registered gun offender, has been convicted of 10 felonies dating back to 2008, prosecutors said. Most recently, he was granted parole in 2019 for an unlawful use of a weapon conviction.

Assistant Public Defender Marijane Placek Monday described her client’s actions as self-defense.

“This defendant was defending his own life, this defendant was defending the life of his companion,” she said. “He realized that he did have a background, he did realize in fact that he has done things wrong in the past, but he also realized that he had a right to life.”

Bergollo, a father of four, spent the last year and a half trying to turn his life around, working for a management company and helping with rehab and guarding houses, Placek said.

While Judge David Navarro said he understands that it is “dangerous out there,” he said that it was just as dangerous to illegally own a gun.

“As your attorney said, ‘It’s better to be tried by 12 than carried by six.’ That is a justification in that sense for the possession of a firearm,” Navarro told Bergollo. “But I believe that it is the illegal possession of a firearm that contributes to that very danger, and here we are then in a tragic example of that resulting danger.”

Navarro ordered Bergollo held without bail.

Bergollo is expected back in court March 2.

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