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Suspect in weekend killing of Cook County inmate accused of beating another detainee in November attack captured on video

Wednesday, February 05, 2020
Chicago Tribune
by Jeremy Gorner

A reputed member of the Satan Disciples street gang who allegedly took part in the vicious beating of an inmate in Cook County Jail less than three months ago is under investigation for the weekend killing of his cellmate, the Chicago Tribune has learned.

Sheriff’s investigators were questioning the inmate in the fatal beating of 19-year-old Pedro Ruiz, a reputed member of the rival Almighty Saints street gang, in their two-man cell early Saturday, according to a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation. The Tribune is not identifying him because he has not been charged in the weekend killing.

The 24-year-old inmate, who has been locked up in the jail since early June on charges he used a rifle to shoot and wound a man in 2017, was among five detainees who attacked a lone inmate Nov. 19 in a day room of a maximum-security wing of the jail, authorities said.

Surveillance video obtained by the Tribune shows the inmate punched and kicked the 41-year-old victim before the other detainees stabbed him with a shank, beat him and stomped on his head.

 
In a clip of surveillance video, five men are seen attacking a fellow inmate in November 2019 in a day room of Cook County Jail. (Cook County sheriff's office)

About seven minutes passed after the attack before correctional officers came to the aid of the victim in the day room, the video showed.

The five inmates were each charged with attempted murder, aggravated battery and mob action, court records show.

Asked why Ruiz was placed in the same cell with a rival gang member less than three months after he was alleged to viciously beat the other inmate, Joseph Ryan, a spokesman for Sheriff Tom Dart’s office, declined to comment other than to say that the department was reviewing “every facet” of the weekend killing.

“We take all acts of violence in the jail extremely seriously and work tirelessly to prevent those intent on committing harm from being able to do so,” he said.

The sheriff’s office was still conducting its own internal review of the November beating when Ruiz was found beaten to death in his Division 9 two-man cell early Saturday, authorities said.

Now the office has launched a separate internal review of the killing to determine if corrections officers followed proper protocol, Ryan said.

Ruiz was ordered held at the jail without bond Friday after his arrest in the shooting of a 21-year-old man on Jan. 28 in the Back of the Yards neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side.

The department generally has intelligence sources within the jail to inform them about gang rivalries, officials said, and gang rivals have been housed together in the same cell before without incident.

Correctional officers found Ruiz unresponsive in his cell with head trauma shortly before 2 a.m. Saturday, and “immediately began lifesaving measures,” Ryan has said. Ruiz was

transported by Chicago Fire Department paramedics to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

Ruiz’s cellmate had been taken into custody for the 2017 shooting on the same day last year that he was to be released on parole from state prison after serving time for a felony gun conviction, records show.

He is awaiting trial on charges of attempted murder, aggravated battery, aggravated discharge of a firearm and possession of an illegal gun in connection with the 2017 shooting.

The victim in that case was walking south in the 4400 block of South Wood Street when one of two assailants who exited a small black truck opened fire, police said. The two fled the scene and the victim collapsed in a gangway, police said.

The victim was driven to Stroger Hospital by an acquaintance and treated for bullet wounds to his left leg and right hip, police said.

Police also found 7.62-caliber shell casings from a semi-automatic rifle at the scene.

The Saints and the Satan Disciples gangs have feuded periodically in the Back of the Yards community and neighboring areas, including during a spate of rifle shootings about three years ago.

The Tribune has reported that from fall 2016 to the end of 2017 more than 140 people were shot — 50 of them fatally — by gang members wielding rifles as their use spread across the South and Southwest sides.

Ryan, the sheriff’s spokesman, noted that inmate-on-inmate killings in the jail "are exceedingly rare, with the last one occurring more than five years ago.”

Tony Purnell died about a month after another inmate in his crowded cell in the jail’s psychiatric ward threw him against a wall and stomped on him in June 2014.

A front-page story in the Chicago Tribune revealed that Purnell, 42, shouldn’t have even been in Cook County Jail. He was supposed to be in state prison serving a 20-year sentence for threatening to harm a downstate judge but had mistakenly been released from custody.

Purnell, who had struggled for years with mental illness after surviving Chicago’s tough Henry Horner Homes to serve in the Army and earn a college degree, had ended up in county jail after he swore at a judge and was given a six-month sentence.

In June 2017, a Cook County judge found Jason Robles not guilty by reason of insanity in Purnell’s murder.

Chicago Tribune’s Annie Sweeney, Megan Crepeau and Rosemary Sobol contributed.

jgorner@chicagotribune.com



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