Clothing colors may have led to deaths

Chicago Sun-Times,  Jul 2, 2000  by CARLOS SADOVI

In the gang-sieged town of Cicero, where nearly 20 active gangs fight over turf, mothers of two dead boys anguished Saturday over how they had dressed their children.

"So if I go outside wearing blue and yellow, are they going to shoot me, too?" asked Mark Lopez's mother, DeMaris Lopez. "It's stupid."

"You have to be careful what you wear. It's pathetic," said Ruben Pulido's mother, Malinda Pulido. "My son is not here because this person who took his life thought he was somebody else."

Lopez's younger daughter Jasmin said it has gotten to the point that she is afraid of even wearing some colors all together.

"A few days ago I was wearing baby blue and blue pants, and a girl asked me what gang I was in," said Jasmin, 12. "Baby blue is my favorite color."

The day after Thursday night's shooting of the 13-year-old boys, Cicero police arrested 16-year-old Robert Haynie, who they said was the shooter, and 19-year-old Juan M. Casillas, who they said told Haynie to shoot. Police said the teenagers took the colors of Pulido's shirt to be those of a rival gang.

 Police said they had no indication that the group of boys who was shot at included any gang members. They said Haynie and Casillas were both members of the Latin Counts, or Roachos, who co-exist in the neighborhood with the Latin Kings.

The Counts wear black and red, the Kings black and gold.

An 18-year-old woman who is a friend of Casillas' said she saw him earlier that evening with a gun, and that he often has guns. He lives with his girlfriend and their 8-month-old baby, she said. Friends call him Roacho.

Haynie, known as O.J., she said, lives with his mother and two sisters on 57th Court. Police said he had a Rosemont address but also had family in Cicero.

The friend, who asked that her name not be published, said the Latin Counts were inflamed because one of their members was killed in the neighborhood one year ago this week.

"It was the Latin Kings who killed him," she said. When the groups crossed paths earlier last week, "they didn't get to fight with them. Roacho was probably real pumped up with that."

She said she believes that the boys who were killed may have been young members of the 4GMs, or ForgiveMes, a branch of the Kings. Police disputed this.

Casillas was picked up by police Friday afternoon in Berwyn, and Haynie was found Friday evening. No gun was recovered, said Cicero police spokesman Keith Fry.

Haynie and Casillas have been charged with two counts of first- degree murder, police said. Casillas was being held without bond. Haynie was being charged as an adult, and was being held on $10 million bond.

Pulido and Lopez, who would have been eighth-graders at Columbus West Middle School this fall, were among 10 close-knit friends resting on a stoop Thursday, enjoying the summer night after shooting hoops in the alley.

Casillas and Haynie rode up on mountain bikes and yelled gang slogans, police said.

"Light them up," said Casillas, the older of the two, police said.

Haynie shot about six times, police said, hitting two of the boys.

The killings dramatize the need for Cicero's anti-gang efforts, which include passing laws to evict known gang members, confiscating gang members' vehicles, and filing multimillion-dollar lawsuits against four gangs.

The efforts have been maligned by civil liberties groups and have been held up in the courts, Fry said.

"There is nothing more tragic than the deaths of children, especially children doing nothing more than sitting on their front porch on a summer's evening," he said.

An hour before Thursday night's shooting, Melissa Pulido, Ruben's sister, said she saw a carload of gang members exchange words with another gang member who was walking with a girl on the same street.

On Saturday, the parents of both boys were making funeral arrangements.

Pulido leafed through photos of her youngest child and only son. She remembered a boy who was a tall but gentle young artist who wanted to pursue a career as an architect.

"I'm never going to have a life with him. I always thought he would get married and have children of his own," his mother said tearfully, as she held his birth certificate with his infant footprints. "He was shot right through the heart."