Prosecutors: Chicago’s ‘Goonie’ gang shattered lives, terrorized South Side with 10 slayings, 6 attempted murders over 2-year span
The Loomis Food Mart in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood was bustling on a Wednesday night eight years ago when Krystal Jackson and her friends pulled into the parking lot to pick up a few items.
As their car idled outside the store, a gunman in a dark hooded sweatshirt suddenly sprinted across the parking lot in the 6800 block of South Loomis Street and fired at the driver’s side window, the muzzle flashes captured on store security video played in a federal courtroom Monday.
Jackson, 25, tried to dive into the back seat for cover, but she was struck in the head and later died at a nearby hospital. Two of her friends were also struck and seriously wounded.
The Nov. 19, 2014, shooting stemmed from an ongoing feud involving the so-called Goonie gang, a violent faction of the Gangster Disciples that terrorized the Englewood community for years, federal prosecutors said Monday as the racketeering trial of three reputed Goonie leaders got underway.
Like many victims in the city’s seemingly never-ending cycle of gun violence, Jackson wasn’t the target, Assistant U.S. Attorney Paige Nutini told jurors in her opening statement.
“She was murdered simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, a casualty of this gang’s street war with its rivals,” Nutini said.
On trial in U.S. District Court are Romeo “O-Dog” Blackman, 27, who was the alleged leader of the Goonie gang, and top henchmen Terrance “T” Smith, 27, and Jolicious “Jo Jo” Turman, 31.
They are each charged with committing murder in furtherance of racketeering conspiracy, which carries a mandatory life sentence upon conviction.
The trial is expected to last up to seven weeks and will include graphic evidence of the Goonie gang’s operation, which prosecutors say targeted rivals and innocent victims alike, including 10 murders and five attempted murders from 2014 to 2016.
Nutini said the evidence will show Blackman and his associates “shot first and asked questions later.” They targeted people they suspected might be snitching to police, committed shootings in broad daylight, and constantly prowled the neighborhood looking for rival gang members, a routine they called “sliding,” she said.
And to boost the impact, Goonie members often turned to the internet, where they “broadcast their violence on social media using Facebook to brag and to taunt their rivals,” Nutini said.
Lawyers for the defendants, meanwhile, said prosecutors have thin evidence when it comes to many of the individual acts of violence alleged in the indictment, and that whatever jurors might think about the gang lifestyle, it’s not proof of racketeering.
“This case is not a referendum on street gangs,” attorney Patrick Blegen, who represents Blackman, said in his opening statement. “The government has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Goonies were a racketeering enterprise and that they committed these acts.”
Defense attorneys also warned that many of the government’s witnesses cannot be trusted because they are testifying in exchange for benefits from prosecutors, including the founding members of the Goonie gang, brothers Alex and Alvin Vaughn.
The Goonie gang trial is the latest in a string of major racketeering cases brought by the U.S. attorney’s office aimed at the leaders of Chicago’s splintered gang factions that prosecutors say are driving the city’s rampant gun violence.
In November, a federal jury found the reputed leader of Chicago’s Wicked Town gang faction and one of his top lieutenants guilty of racketeering conspiracy involving a string of murders, shootings, robberies and narcotics trafficking on the West Side stretching back two decades.
Later this year, five alleged members of the South Side’s “O Block” gang faction are set to go to trial on a racketeering conspiracy indictment accusing them of a pattern of violence that includes the downtown slaying of Chicago rapper FBG Duck in 2020.
Jurors in the Goonie case are expected to be shown numerous Facebook videos during the trial in which the defendants and other gang associates allegedly boast about killing rivals and flamboyantly display their arsenal of guns, some with extended magazines, on publicly available platforms.
During jury selection, prospective jurors were asked repeatedly about their feelings on gangs and gun violence and whether they could see graphic evidence like autopsy photos and still weigh the case fairly for both sides.
During opening statements, the panel was shown images depicting pools of blood on a sidewalk, bodies lying on the street and in gangways, and vehicles pockmarked with bullet holes.
They also saw surveillance video of Jackson’s slaying outside the Loomis Food Mart in 2014. Prosecutors said that Smith had fired the fatal shots after he and Blackman, who were looking for revenge for the earlier killing of an associate, spotted the car idling in the parking lot and doubled back.
Tinesha Simmons, who was friends with Blackman at the time, testified that Blackman was driving them around that night in her mother’s car when he said they wanted to go to the corner store.
After they passed the store on Loomis, Blackman took a right on 69th Street and parked in a nearby alley. Smith, wearing a dark hoodie, got out and ran through several backyards before she head “popping sounds,” Simmons said.
When Smith got back to the car a minute later, he was breathing fast, and “kind of like jumped in the seat and slammed the door,” Simmons said.
The surveillance video showed the gunman was wearing camouflage pants low off the waist, exposing a pair of red undershorts. A Chicago police detective assigned to scour social media accounts later saw a Facebook profile of Smith posing in the exact same clothing, according to testimony Monday afternoon.
Police executed a search warrant at Smith’s house and found the pants in his closet, according to testimony from a detective assigned to the investigation. Police also learned that Smith had shared a Chicago Tribune online news article about the shooting through his Facebook account.
Jackson’s shooting also led to another one of the attempted murders alleged in the indictment, according to Nutini.
A few days after the attack, Blackman had the same gun on him when police tried to stop him, Nutini said. Blackman handed the weapon to an associate, Quincent Hayes, and told him to run.
Hayes was arrested for firearm possession, which worried Smith because it could connect him to Jackson’s slaying, Nutini said. After Hayes was released from jail on electronic monitoring, Smith allegedly devised a plan to kill him.
On Feb. 4, 2015, Smith offered to walk Hayes, then 18, to school, prosecutors have alleged in public court filings. After jumping a fence, Hayes asked Smith to hold his cigarette while he bent down to tie his shoe. When he stood up to ask for the cigarette back, Smith had a gun pointed at his head.
Smith allegedly shot Hayes nine times, went home and bragged to his fellow gang members that he’d killed him, according to prosecutors.
But Hayes survived.
“He not dead and he’ll be here to testify,” Nutini told the jury in her opening statement.