Northwest Side

Man Chased Family, Causing Crash that Killed 16-Year-Old Girl: Prosecutors

A family was terrorized by a gun-toting man who chased them and hit their Dodge Charger, causing them to get into a crash that left the 16-year-old daughter dead, Cook County prosecutors said Friday.

Josue Mendoza Barrera started tailing the family in his minivan when they pulled out of a Northwest Side Walgreens after dropping off a friend who had just accompanied them to the White Sox game on the night of Aug. 3, Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said.

Soon after, Barrera, 26, pulled up beside the Charger at a red light and stared at the family while he racked the slide of a “large firearm,” Murphy said.

Fearing a potential carjacking, the patriarch of the family sped away, but was relentlessly pursued by Barrera as he tried to find safety at the Grand Central District police station, Murphy said.

During the chase, Ashley Sanchez, 16, called police and stayed on the phone with them until her father crashed, Murphy said.

Despite the patriarch driving at speeds of as high as 92 mph and at one point making a three-point turn in traffic to lose Berrera, Berrera kept up with the Charger and struck it with his minivan, sending the family spinning into a parked semitrailer in the 4500 block of West Armitage Avenue, Murphy said.

Berrara allegedly stopped briefly after the crash, but then drove off without calling for help.

Sanchez suffered a severe head injury as a result of the crash and was pronounced dead at Illinois Masonic Medical Center.

“A 16-year-old girl’s night out started with going to a Sox game and ended with her dying in terror during this high-speed chase,” Murphy told Judge Susana Ortiz.

Surveillance video from the Walgreens showed Berrera drinking in the business’ parking lot before he chased the family, Murphy said.

An hour before the crash, Berrera’s face was captured at a liquor store making a purchase, allowing police to use facial recognition technology to identity him, Murphy said.

Detectives then learned Berrera was wanted on a warrant for a 2020 driving offense in Lemont, Murphy said. When he was arrested Wednesday in the southwest suburb, Berrera was allegedly driving a BMW with the same license plates that were on the minivan at the time of the August crash.

Berrera’s license is currently suspended because of a 2016 DUI charge and he has previously been charged with other driving offenses, Murphy said.

Berrera, of Belmont Cragin, was initially charged with reckless homicide, but prosecutors dropped that charge Friday and charged him with first-degree murder, as well as leaving the scene of an accident and speeding.

Berrera wasn’t identified “by anyone on the scene at the time of the incident” as being the driver of the minivan, nor was there video of the crash, an assistant public defender said.

Berrara works as a “digital laser operator” for a Lemont-based direct mail company, the defense attorney added.

Before ordering him held without bail, Ortiz said, “I do not believe [Berrera] should be out on the streets in any way, shape or form.”

Berrera is expected back in court Nov. 23.

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