Migrant stabbed, critically injured another during a fight near downtown Chicago park: prosecutors

CHICAGO — A recently-arrived Venezuelan migrant stabbed and critically injured another migrant during a fight in downtown Chicago, prosecutors said.

The men have known each other for a few months, and both were residents of the emergency shelter that Chicago city officials established at the old Standard Club, 320 South Plymouth Court.

They got into an argument outside the shelter around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, but it ended without getting physical, prosecutor Sarah Dale-Schmidt said during a Friday afternoon bail hearing for the accused man, 27-year-old Elvis Diaz-Betancourt.

But officials said that Diaz-Betancourt soon emerged from the shelter, and they began fighting near Pritzker Park in the 300 block of South State Street. Bystanders broke it up, but Diaz-Betancourt stabbed the 37-year-old victim near the right hip, Dale-Schmidt said.

As the victim walked away, she added gruesomely, he realized he had been cut and could see his internal organs. After the victim cried out for help, Diaz-Betancourt allegedly returned to stab him in the back, then ran away.

Witnesses flagged down a Chicago police unit, and officers called for an ambulance, which took the victim to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. There, he underwent surgery to repair multiple stab wounds, Dale-Schmidt said.

Elvis Diaz-Betancourt | Chicago Police Department

The attack was captured on a Chicago Police Department surveillance camera. Officers secured an image of the attacker’s face from the footage and showed it to staff members at the Standard Club shelter. They identified him as Diaz-Betancourt and took officers to his room, according to Dale-Schmidt.

Diaz-Betancourt had a cut on his finger when the police arrived. When they asked where the blue jacket and red shoes he wore in the video footage were, Diaz-Betancourt directed them to his brother’s room. Both items were recovered there, Dale-Schmidt said.

During the bond hearing, Assistant Public Defender Catherine Stockslager said Diaz-Betencourt has been in Chicago for about four months and has lived at the shelter for three of those, working odd jobs as a carpenter. He has two children who remain in Venezuela.

Judge Maryam Ahmad questioned the prosecution’s claim that Diaz-Betancourt has no criminal background.

“I want to know how far back your background goes. And here’s my question, because when I hear ‘first arrest,’ that sounds like tabula rasa, where you’re telling me this is his first arrest, period,” said the judge to Dale-Schmidt. “Are you telling me this is his first arrest, or are you telling me this is his first arrest in the four months he’s been here? Because that’s different.”

“Per the information the state has access to,” Dale-Schmidt replied, “this is his first arrest.”

Ahmad expressed further concerns about the violent nature of the allegations and the possibility that Diaz-Betancourt could leave the jurisdiction upon release. She ordered him to pay a $20,000 bail deposit to get out of jail on electronic monitoring.

He is charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and aggravated battery causing great bodily harm.

‘Who are these individuals?’

Diaz-Betancourt was at least the third Venezuelan migrant to appear before Ahmad in felony bond court this week.

On Tuesday, Anduesa Cormena, 34, and Yeiber Colmenarez, 22, were brought in on felony shoplifting charges for allegedly trying to steal a combined $1,376 worth of clothing from Macy’s, 111 North State. Prosecutors said both men were staying at a migrant shelter inside the former Wadsworth Elementary School, 6650 South Ellis, in Woodlawn.

It was the third time Cormena had been arrested since arriving in Chicago three weeks ago, prosecutors said.  But his defense attorney said his name was Daniel Jose Garcia, and he didn’t know how the police came up with the name Anduesa Cormena.

Ahmad demanded to know how long both men had been in Chicago and their criminal histories since arriving here.

“Here’s where I’m going with this, just so we’re clear,” Ahmad told Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Sorrentino. “These are individuals who’ve not been in the country very long. You’re now telling me that they were arrested at Macy’s, committing a felony retail theft. So the court wants some idea of who is in front of me. Additionally, as the public defender just indicated, one person has already indicated he’s using another name. So, who are these people? Who are these individuals?”

After taking a timeout, Dale-Schmidt returned with the information Ahmad wanted.

Yeiber Colmenarez has not been arrested since arriving in Chicago, she said. But he does have “a February 25, 2023, matter for alien inadmissibility” with the U.S. Border Patrol.

But she had a different story about Cormena. Dale-Schmidt said he had been arrested and charged with two misdemeanors since arriving here three weeks ago.

“Misdemeanors here in Chicago?” the judge asked.

“Yes, your honor.”

On April 27, he was charged with misdemeanor battery after hitting someone in the forehead during an argument at the shelter, according to Dale-Schmidt and CPD records. Last Thursday, he was arrested for retail theft at Nordstrom, 55 East Grand.

Cormena, or Daniel Jose Garcia, was identified as “Danny J. Briceno” in one of the CPD arrest reports and “Danny Garcia Briceno” in the other. He was released from the police station both times on recognizance bonds.

Expressing concern about the men’s background and lack of ties to Chicago, Ahmad ordered Colmenarez to pay a $1,500 bail deposit and Cormena to pay a $5,000 deposit to get out of jail on electronic monitoring.

Growing problem

CWBChicago first reported that Venezuelan migrants, including children, were sleeping on the floors of police station lobbies on April 3. Since then, city officials say, the flow of migrants has increased dramatically. Police now estimate that between 450 and 550 migrants are sleeping in police station lobbies because the city cannot find anywhere to put them.

Those numbers may be undercounts. CBS2 reported Tuesday evening that there are 70 families living at just one of the city’s CPD stations.

On Tuesday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared a state of emergency as the city struggles to find resources and money to assist arriving migrants.

“We should all understand that this crisis will likely deepen before we see it get better,” Lightfoot said Tuesday.

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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