Man shot dead before he can 'get out of the game'

HomicideShootingsAfricaHuman InterestGarry McCarthy

Hours after he was fatally shot, a small, shallow collection of blood stained the ground in the Southwest Side alley where Federico Martinez was killed.

As his neighbors and friends gathered around a small memorial commemorating the Gage Park man’s life, they struggled to make sense of his death.

“He was just telling me he was trying to straighten his life out,” said Alexis Nieto Davilla, 24, who said she knew Martinez from the neighborhood. “He wanted to become a good father for his kids. But he got gunned down.”

The murder of Martinez, 32, brought the city closer to 500 homicides this year, statistics show. This year is the first time the city has had this many slayings since 2008.

While the city of Chicago has more working police officers per capita among the five major cities, it has the second-highest homicide rate. In terms of raw numbers, the city will finish 2012 with the highest number of murders in the country, statistics show.

It’s difficult to pinpoint a single cause for the increase in shooting deaths, but some point to gang turf wars, unseasonable warmth earlier in the year and the disbanding of special police units that specialized in tackling violent crime.

Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy blamed the proliferation of guns onto Chicago’s streets and conflict among the city’s larger gangs for the rise in homicides. At recent press conferences, McCarthy has consistently said that while murders have increased, overall crime is down.

According to both police and his neighbors, Martinez was affiliated with a local gang and was known as a Latin King. He was standing in the alley in the 5300 block of South California Avenue around 10 p.m. Wednesday when someone drove by in a light-colored truck with tinted windows and opened fire.

Neighbors said they heard four shots.

Martinez was struck in the face, chest and arms and was pronounced dead at Mount Sinai Hospital, police said. No one answered the door at his Gage Park house and his family members were unreachable for comment on Thursday.

But several of his neighbors, who gathered and made a memorial honoring him, said Martinez was a father of four young children. Although he lived for years in the neighborhood, he was not well known outside of his close friends.

In some ways, his death was like so many others. This year shootings and murders were mainly concentrated in minority communities and affected mostly young black and Latino men, the preliminary statistics show.

Blacks make up about 33 percent of the city’s population, but African-Americans made up 75.6 percent of the homicides this year, statistics show. According to police data, 378 homicide victims were African-American.

Likewise, Hispanics make up about 29 percent of the city’s population. This year there were 82 Hispanic victims gunned down, or about 16.4 percent.

On Thursday, Chicago Police said Martinez’s death was still under investigation. In the afternoon police took into custody a man carrying a handgun, who had vowed to avenge Martinez’s death, officials said.

At the spot where he was slain, residents placed candles, flowers, empty beer and liquor bottles, and stuffed toy lions, which symbolized Martinez’s gang affiliation.

“Last time we talked, he said he was going to get out of the game,” Nieto Davilla said. “Then this happened.”

Tribune reporter Peter Nickeas contributed to this report.

jgorner@tribune.com
lbowean@tribune.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
HomicideShootingsAfricaHuman InterestGarry McCarthy
  • Homicide on California Avenue
    Homicide on California Avenue

    Detectives investigate the scene of a shooting that left a 32-year-old man dead late Wednesday night.

  •  
     

    A man in his 30s was shot in an alley east of California, south of 54th, around 10 p.m. Wednesday night. He's in critical condition at Sinai.

Comments
Loading