Gang Member goes on Trial for Shooting ATF Agent in the Face

(Tribune) Shortly after shooting a plainclothes federal agent he allegedly mistook for a rival, gang member Ernesto Godinez messaged a girlfriend to come pick him up near his South Side home, federal prosecutors say.

When he got in the car, Godinez was sweating and out of breath. “I feel good. F— that flake,” he allegedly said to the girlfriend, using a street term for a member of an opposing gang.

The details surrounding the May 2018 shooting of Kevin Crump, a special agent for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, were laid out for a federal jury Tuesday as Godinez’s trial got underway in a courtroom packed with Crump’s colleagues.

Prosecutors told jurors that Godinez, a reputed member of the Almighty Latin Saints street gang, thought he was shooting at rival gang members when he fired at federal task force officers installing court-approved tracking devices on cars of suspected gang members in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.

At the time, the task force officers — including Crump — were dressed in sweatshirts with the hoods up and driving unmarked vehicles, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kavitha Babu said in her opening statement.

Minutes before the shooting, surveillance cameras showed Godinez leaving his home in the 4300 block of South Wood Street and cutting though an alley to a gangway, Babu said.

While the shooting itself was not captured, prosecutors alleged Godinez fired five rounds from the mouth of the gangway, ran back to his residence and texted his girlfriend to pick him up.

One of the bullets struck Crump in the face and exited from his neck, but he miraculously survived, Babu said. A grainy surveillance video played in court Tuesday showed the agent running south on Hermitage Avenue as the shots rang out, then crumpling to the street.

A Chicago police officer who was part of the task force returned fire but did not strike anyone, Babu said.

ATF Special Agent Daniel Winter testified he initially ran toward the direction of the gunfire not realizing that Crump had been struck. When he turned around and saw him lying in the street, he ran back to find Crump with “his hands over his face” and making muffled sounds, Winter said.

Crump is expected to testify later in the trial.

In his opening remarks, Godinez’s attorney, Lawrence Hyman, said while Godinez admits to being in a gang, no direct evidence linked him to the agent’s shooting. Hyman also said surveillance images indicated the “real shooter” was wearing a white T-shirt, while Godinez could be seen on the video dressed in dark clothing and wearing a baseball cap.

“The government has distorted the facts,” Hyman said. “The facts do not implicate Mr. Godinez as the shooter.”

Godinez, 29, is charged with a single count of assaulting an ATF agent with a deadly weapon. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

Godinez was arrested on a criminal complaint three days after the shooting. His older brother, Rodrigo Godinez, 37, was arrested the same day and charged in a separate complaint with cocaine distribution.

The shooting took place amid stepped-up efforts by ATF and Chicago police to investigate a rash of gang-related rifle shootings in the Back of the Yards.

The Chicago Tribune reported that more than 140 people were shot — 50 of them fatally — from fall 2016 to the end of 2017 by gang members wielding rifles as their use spread across the South and Southwest sides.

Winter testified Tuesday that his team was well aware that the neighborhood was “prevalent with a lot of shootings” and that it was standard procedure to try to operate covertly late at night to avoid drawing attention to the investigation.

“We didn’t want anyone to know we were law enforcement,” he said. “We just wanted to blend in with the community.”

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