Defense: Accused killer’s confession was coerced by police
By Jim Newton firstname.lastname@example.org | @JimNewton5 October 8, 2013 12:19PM
Jose M. Garcia
Updated: November 10, 2013 6:23AM
The defense attorney for Mundelein resident Jose Garcia, who is charged with the shooting death of 19-year-old Gabriel Gonzalez of Zion outside a Round Lake Beach convenience store, claims Garcia was coerced into confessing by officers who said his family was in danger of gang violence.
Prosecutors say that Garcia, 18, fatally shot Gonzalez on March 10 in the parking lot of the One Stop Food and Liquor Store on the 1000 block of Fairfield Road in Round Lake Beach in an incident that was recorded by the store’s surveillance camera.
Garcia confessed during the second day of videotaped questioning at the Round Lake Beach Police Department. His defense attorney, James Schwarzbach, said the confession was coerced because it was given soon after police said his mother, father and sister were in danger of gang retaliation due to fallout from the shooting.
“They began to tell him that his family was going to be killed and that he needed to man up (and confess to the shooting) to protect his family,” Schwarzbach said in Lake County Circuit Court Tuesday, Oct. 8, during a hearing on a motion to suppress the confession.
Officials have said Gonzalez did not appear to have gang connections and that he may have been a victim of mistaken identity.
Schwarzbach said detectives indicated the threat could come from another faction of the Latin Kings, whom he said had recruited Garcia. The suggestion was that Jose Rebollar-Vergara, 24, of Round Lake Park, a second defendant charged with murder in the case, was a veteran member of another faction of the gang that could retaliate against Garcia’s family if he did not confess to being the killer.
Schwarzbach said Garcia was told by officers that the Mundelein police chief called and asked whether extra protection would be needed for the residence of Garcia’s family, and that CrimeStoppers had information about potential upcoming gang violence in the area.
He said police told Garcia extra patrols had been approved, “but we can only do so much,” and that if he confessed they could “put that (information) out there” to ease the threat.
“They effectively put a gun to his head,” Schwarzbach said figuratively.
Assistant State’s Attorney Reginald Mathews said Garcia remained both defiant and calm and collected during the interview, refusing to give police information such as the location of the gun and identities of others present.
He said the videotaped questioning and confession does not show a man whose will was broken, but rather a man displaying “strong will.”
The videotaped confession and a transcript from it are being used as evidence in the motion. The hearing is to continue later this month because of the unavailability of a witness Tuesday.
Schwarzbach is also seeking to have the videotape of the shooting suppressed in a separate motion still pending.