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.
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.
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