#24: Gunman left a woman paralyzed in River North just 4 weeks after officials sent his felony gun case to a “peace circle,” prosecutors say

Ojani Cruz was on a roll.

The 19-year-old had received one break after another since Chicago cops allegedly found a gun in his waistband during a traffic stop on April 6.

Prosecutors charged him with a felony, but Judge Susana Ortiz released him on own recognizance with electronic monitoring. She said the money she could have ordered him to pay for bail would be better spent on his 3-year-old child.

A week later, another judge, Edward Maloney, removed him from electronic monitoring and, even better, prosecutors referred his case to restorative justice court where, according to the court’s website, the gun violation would be resolved “through restorative conferences and peace circles.”

“Defendants who successfully complete the program may have the opportunity to have their charges dismissed and arrest and court records expunged,” the court site says.

On Friday, the good times ended when Chicago cops arrested Cruz as he walked out of restorative justice court.

Ojani Cruz | CPD

They say he opened fire on two people in River North on May 29 — just a month after authorities decided to give his gun case the peace circle treatment. One of his alleged victims is now paralyzed from the waist down.

Cruz is the 24th person accused of killing or shooting — or trying to shoot or kill — someone in Chicago this year while on bail for a felony. The alleged crimes involve at least 53 victims, 11 of whom died.

‘Blow that mother f*cker’

Around 10 p.m. on the night before Memorial Day, an 18-year-old man and a 21-year-old woman were sitting in a parked minivan the 500 block of West Erie near Ward Park. The man recognized someone who was walking down the street and they had a brief conversation.

The passerby left for a few moments, then returned with three other men, including Cruz, Assistant State’s Attorney James Konstantopoulos said during a bail hearing Sunday. Cruz and the 18-year-old went to high school together and played on the same baseball team a few years ago, according to Konstantopoulos.

Cruz allegedly leaned into the minivan’s driver’s window and asked his former classmate if he was still having sex with a woman they both used to date.

After the man said no, Cruz started punching him in the face, Konstantopoulos said. Two other men with Cruz began punching the 18-year-old, too.

At one point, a male voice told Cruz to “blow that mother f*cker,” Konstantopoulos alleged.

Cruz allegedly pulled a gun from his waistband and fired into the minivan as he circled the vehicle. He kept firing until he ran out of bullets, Konstantopoulos said. Cops later found nine bullet holes in the van and its windshield. There were 17 shell casings at the scene.

The 18-year-old was not shot, but the woman suffered a life-changing gunshot wound to the middle of her back.

Konstantopoulos said the driver sped away and flagged down cops for help at a nearby intersection. Both victims later identified Cruz in photo line-ups, he said.

Judge Mary Marubio ordered Cruz held without bail on two counts of attempted first-degree murder. She also held him without bail on the pending gun case until he sees the restorative justice judge on Friday.

The “not horrible” series

This report continues our coverage of individuals accused of killing, shooting, or trying to kill or shoot others while on bond for a pending felony case. CWBChicago began our series of reports in November 2019 after Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans publicly stated, “we haven’t had any horrible incidents occur” under the court’s bond reform initiative.

The actual number of murders and shootings committed by people on felony bail is undoubtedly much higher than the numbers seen here. Since 2017, CPD has brought charges in less than 5% of non-fatal shootings and 33% of murders, according to the city’s data. 

You can support CWBChicago’s work by becoming a subscriber today.

#1: Man who tried to shoot 3 outside a North Side restaurant on New Year’s Day had a pending felony case, prosecutors say (January 6, 2022)

#2: Felon awaiting trial for 4 sexual assault cases escaped from electronic monitoring and tried to kill investigators who tracked him down, prosecutors say (January 15, 2022)

#3: With felony gun case pending, man shot passerby during “exchange of gunfire,” prosecutors say (January 23, 2022)

#4: Seven-time felon on electronic monitoring for his 4th gun case tried to shoot and kill his girlfriend’s father, prosecutors say (January 26, 2022)

#5: Teen on electronic monitoring for TWO gun cases carjacked a Lyft driver, then shot a 15-year-old at point-blank range, prosecutors say (February 10, 2022)

#6: Man killed nursing student months after going AWOL from felony DUI case, prosecutors say (February 20, 2022)

#7: Man shot and killed his own brother while on bail for a felony gun case, prosecutors say (February 22, 2022)

#8: Beloved Hyde Park bartender was killed by a robber who has 3 pending felony cases, prosecutors said (March 7, 2022)

#9: Man involved in New Year’s shoot-out that left one dead was on bail for his 3rd gun felony, prosecutors say (March 8, 2022)

#10: An 11-time convicted felon shot a 3-year-old and tried to kill the boy’s mother while on felony bail, prosecutors say (March 11, 2022)

#11: Man allegedly stabbed another to death 4 days after getting released on felony bail (March 29, 2022)

#12: He opened fire on his ex’s house, killing a man, prosecutors say. But he was supposed to be home 24/7 for a pending felony gun case. (March 29, 2022)

#13: Man shot a woman, fired toward 4 others, while on bond for being a felon in possession of a firearm, prosecutors say (April 7, 2022)

#14: Man killed his parents in an Uptown senior center while on bond for federal armed robbery and gun charges, prosecutors say (April 14. 2022)

#15: Four-time felon opened fire on a carload of victims, injuring 2 while on bond for felony gun case, prosecutors say (April 20, 2022)

#16: Man shot his ex this month and her boyfriend last month, prosecutors say. He was on felony bail. (April 24, 2022)

#17: Man tried to kill 2 cable TV installers over a missing dog, prosecutors say. He was on bail at the time. (April 30, 2022)

#18: Man escaped from electronic monitoring and ran over a cop in a stolen car while fleeing a murder scene, prosecutors say (May 19, 2022)

#19: A two-time felon circled a West Side neighborhood for 15 minutes looking for someone to kill in a revenge murder, prosecutors say. He was on bond for a gun case at the time. (May 21, 2022)

#20: Alleged mass shooter had a felony gun case pending when he killed 2, wounded 7 near Magnificent Mile, records show (May 22, 2022)

#21: Five months after escaping from electronic monitoring, he helped shoot up a carload of people, injuring 2, prosecutors say (May 29, 2022)

#22: Man accused of setting ‘Walking Man’ on fire has been AWOL from 2 felony cases for 15 months, court records show (May 30, 2022)

#23: Two weeks after being charged with having a stolen rifle in a hijacked car, he allegedly shot a man with a rifle after getting out of a hijacked car (June 11, 2022)

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About CWBChicago 6689 Articles
CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com