melissa ortega

Months Before Young Girl Shot, Teen Accused Used Gun in 3 Carjackings, Got Probation

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In just the last year, police say 16-year-old Emilio Corripio used a gun at least three times in a carjacking.

In one of the attacks, he hit a victim in the face with a pistol equipped with a laser sight, according to police reports. In another, he waved a .375-caliber Magnum with the serial numbers scratched out.

After pleading guilty last fall, Corripio was given probation and was back on the street with a gun last Saturday in Little Village, police say. This time he allegedly pulled the trigger while aiming at rival gang members standing on the corner on busy 26th Street.

As he fired, 8-year-old Melissa Ortega was crossing the street with her mother. They ran when they heard the first shots, the little girl looking over her shoulder, then going limp as two bullets struck her in the head.

Corripio then jumped into a cab driven by his friend, Xavier Guzman, 27, and they headed to a Subway to grab a sandwich, police and prosecutors said. Later that night, the cab was spotted driving past a memorial of candles, flowers and teddy bears at the spot where Melissa died, according to prosecutors.

Guzman was arrested two days later after police tracked his cab through video and the cab’s GPS, prosecutors said. Corripio, a student at Farragut High School, was arrested the next day.

On Thursday, the two appeared in bond court on charges of murder, attempted murder and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon. Judge Susana Ortiz ordered both held without bail, saying they showed an “absolute disregard” for public safety.

The judge noted that the shooting occurred in the middle of the day on a bustling street filled with people shopping and running errands, including Melissa and her mother.

In arguing for no bail, prosecutors noted that Corripio was still on “intensive probation” at the time of the shooting. But they gave only the barest details of the carjackings that led to that sentence.

Police reports obtained by the Sun-Times show that a gun was used in each carjacking.

In one of them, Corripio and three other people pulled up behind a 2001 white GMC Yukon in the 2600 block of West 37th Place, according to the reports. Corripio got out and “brandished a revolver” and ordered the driver out.

Corripio and the others drove off in the Yukon but were stopped about two miles away and arrested, according to the reports.

In another carjacking, Corripio was accused of approaching a car in the 5100 block of South Ridgeway and tapping on the window with a handgun fitted with a laser sight, according to police.

Corripio hit the victim in the face with the gun and forced him out of the car, police said. He was arrested about 3 1/2 miles away when police used GPS to track him down, according to the reports.

In the third carjacking, police went to Corripio’s home and, after talking to his mother, took him into custody for an armed carjacking.

Charged as a juvenile with the three carjackings, Corripio pleaded to being delinquent in October in exchange for one of the cases being lowered to possession of a stolen motor vehicle, according to prosecutors.

He was given three years probation. While the case was pending, Corripio was at times released from the Juvenile Detention Center on electronic monitoring or given a curfew.

Corripio was also arrested twice last year for reckless conduct and obstruction of traffic, according to a law enforcement source.

The other suspect in the shooting, Guzman, had no prior criminal history, prosecutors said.

Guzman, a suburban taxi driver, was seen picking up Corripio at his home in a cab with company markings about an hour before the shooting, Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said.

After driving to the area of 26th Street at Komensky Avenue, the two spotted rival Gangster Two-Six members flashing gang signs on the corner and Guzman pulled into a nearby alley, Murphy said.

Corripio, a self-admitted member of the Latin Kings, walked through the alley and then opened fire on the group, Murphy said. One of the gang members was struck in the back as he fled.

Melissa was hit in the crosswalk. The hail of bullets also struck a parked car on the street, but a father and his 9-year-old daughter seated inside the car weren’t hurt.

Surveillance video recorded Corripio leaving the alley and opening fire, but his face could not be seen because he was wearing a hood and a face mask, Murphy said.

After the shooting, Corripio returned to the cab and the pair drove to a Subway sandwich shop and later to a gas station, where the teen was recorded on video wearing the same clothes and, this time, his face was visible, Murphy said.

The owner of Guzman’s cab identified him as having possession of the car and a GPS device inside tracked the cab’s movements before and after the shooting, Murphy said.

Guzman was arrested Monday, and a gun allegedly found inside the cab matched shell casings recovered at the scene of the shooting.

Guzman’s cellphone records showed extensive communication with Corripio and the teen’s fingerprint was found inside the cab. He taken into custody the following day, Murphy said.

Corripio lives with his parents, plays soccer and is currently enrolled in 11th grade, his defense attorney said.

Guzman lives with his grandmother, the attorney said, and argued that prosecutors had provided no evidence he knew what the teen planned to do.

Both were expected back in court Feb. 15.

Copyright CHIST - SunTimes
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