Crime

Suspect in State Park Place gang shooting told police he was living in country illegally

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Witnessing a crime and reporting it can be just as frightening as being the victim of a crime. Here’s what you should do if you witness illegal activity.

One of the gang members charged in the shooting of a 17-year-old boy in State Park Place told investigators that he is not a legal resident of the United States.

Damian O. Armendariz-Vasquez, 19, told St. Clair County Sheriff’s deputies of his status during the investigation. It was not among the questions the deputies asked in questioning, Capt. Bruce Fleshren said.

Armendariz-Vasquez and 18-year-old Ladevon Pence were charged with shooting an unnamed teen on Aug. 5. Police say they incorrectly thought the teen belonged to a rival gang. The teen was shot three times including once in the back and is now permanently paralyzed.

“It doesn’t affect our prosecution one way or another,” Fleshren said of his immigration status.

He added that there could be implications after a conviction in the case and the department has contacted Immigration Customs Enforcement.

His country of origin was not disclosed, but Fleshren said Armendariz-Vasquez’ parents went to Mexico “shortly after we began investigating him.”

Damian O. Armendariz-Vasquez 2.jpg
Damian O. Armendariz-Vasquez

Pence did not say anything about his citizenship status, Fleshren said. The captain added that police did not ask Pence about it.

Armendariz-Vasquez is charged with with two counts of aggravated battery with great bodily harm, one count of being a street gang member with a gun, and one count of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon. He remained in custody on Friday afternoon on a $100,000 bail.

Pence, of Granite City, is charged with four counts of aggravated battery, one count of unlawful possession of a firearm by a street gang member, and one count of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon. He remained in custody at St. Clair County Jail on Friday on a $1 million bail.

ICE spokespeople take up to 24 hours to process a media request, a representative said on Friday afternoon. The agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to a report by The Washington Post, the House passed a bill Friday that restores the federal government’s ability to deport immigrants for violent criminal offenses.

Mary Cooley: 618-239-2535; @MaryCooleyBND
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