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Man suspected of shooting ATF agent to remain behind bars

Ernesto Godinez

Ernesto Godinez was charged in the shooting of a federal agent in Back of the Yards. | Chicago Police Department

The shooting of an ATF agent in the Back of the Yards earlier this month “could not have happened the way” federal prosecutors claim, a defense attorney said Thursday as he tried to spring his client from jail.

But U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria Valdez was more concerned with whether Ernesto Godinez posed an ongoing danger to the community. After deciding he did, she ordered him to remain behind bars while a packed courtroom gallery looked on.

She handed down her order after Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Eichenseer accused Godinez of opening fire while the agent and two others were walking away, their backs turned, in a gangway marked with the symbol of the Latin Saints.


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“The defendant made a calculated plan to ambush a group of people from behind with a burst of gunfire,” Eichenseer said.

The prosecutor also made note of Godinez’s long criminal history, including allegations he once fired at someone whose wife and child stood nearby.

But defense attorney Lawrence Hyman used the hearing on Thursday to attack the latest case against Godinez, arguing there is no evidence tying Godinez to the actual shooting of the ATF agent on May 4.

Two cameras captured Godinez walking out of a house in the 4300 block of South Wood at 3:16 a.m. that day, and then walking across an alley to the 4300 block of South Hermitage, records show. Shortly after gunshots rang out at 3:18 a.m., he can be seen running back across the alley to his house.

But Hyman said nothing suggests he actually fired the weapon — or even had one.

Eichenseer offered to provide more evidence to the judge, but she ordered Godinez detained without taking the prosecutor up on his offer.

ATF agents had been in the neighborhood to replace a tracking device on a vehicle in the 4400 block of South Hermitage, according to a criminal complaint. An advance team had driven down Wood Street to scan for pedestrians and gave an all-clear. But then, while walking south near 44th and Hermitage, one of the agents tasked with placing the device was shot in the face.

An ATF agent was shot in the head in the 4400 block of Hermitage early Friday morning.

An ATF agent was shot in the head in the 4400 block of South Hermitage earlier this month. | Justin Jackson/ Sun-Times

Police recovered five shell casings in the alley, and Chicago Police ShotSpotter devices recorded seven shots.

Minutes after the shooting, a camera filmed Godinez walking out of his house, wiping his face and holding what looks like a cellphone. He walked down Wood Street, out of view and then reappeared before getting into a “dark colored vehicle.”