Charges in Marine's '06 slaying
Con accused of mistaken-identity shooting of Iraq vet

February 23, 2007

Almost five years after he killed a Polish immigrant in a confrontation over a snowball attack, Steven Bryant was accused Thursday of murdering a former Marine who served two tours in Iraq.

Bryant, 21, was charged with shooting Ricky Martinez Jr. after mistaking him for a rival gang member April 24, 2006, on the Northwest Side.

Martinez, 22, was visiting from New York. He was at a Cubs game earlier in the day and pulled over his car in the 4700 block of West Addison after his friends started quarreling over a cell phone, police said. Martinez's three pals were outside the car when Bryant fired a .45-caliber pistol from the passenger seat of a passing vehicle, striking Martinez, Chicago Police Sgt. Bryan Holy of Grand Central Area detective headquarters said.

Detectives learned the identity of a female occupant of the car Bryant was in, Holy said. Gang investigators found her, and she identified the others, including Bryant.

Joined after 9/11

Bryant -- who served a prison sentence for the 2002 killing -- returned to prison last year on an unrelated Downstate conviction, records show. Investigators used electronic surveillance on Bryant in Stateville Correctional Center to gain additional evidence against him in the Martinez killing, Holy said.

Martinez may have been killed because of the car he was driving, police said. His car was similar to one driven by a neighborhood member of the Spanish Four Corner Hustlers -- rivals of Bryant's gang, the Insane Deuces, Holy said.

Martinez's wife, Olga, is a police officer in New York. Martinez had joined the Marines after 9/11, his family said.

Olga Martinez said in a phone interview Thursday night the arrest means the suspect will "pay for what he did, but it doesn't bring my husband back."

In 2002, Andrzej Wielgosz, 20, was fatally shot in the neck by Bryant after a car he was riding in was pummeled with snowballs and a brick, and he emerged from the car with a metal auto security device to confront Bryant and three others, prosecutors said. Portage Park residents were outraged when prosecutors initially charged Bryant with felony unlawful use of a weapon and mob action. Prosecutors later upgraded the charges against Bryant, and he was convicted of second-degree murder.