'Throw away the key': Man charged in Portage Park bar shooting was out on parole for violent crime

Mother outraged after man accused in daughter's murder now accused in another violent crime weeks after paroled

Thursday, December 15, 2022
Portage Park bar shooting suspect accused of killing 3, critically injuring 1 held without bond
The suspect is already a convicted felon, released on parole in September after serving time for a 2009 home invasion in which two people were killed.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The man accused of charged with killing three people and critically injuring another outside a bar in the Portage Park neighborhood on the city's Northwest Side be held without bond.

Last weekend's murders happened just months after the accused shooter was paroled after serving time for a deadly home invasion back in 2009.

Prosecutors said multiple eyewitnesses identified 32-year-old Samuel Parsons-Salas as the person responsible for the deadly shooting spree outside Vera Lounge early Sunday.

Parsons-Salas has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of armed kidnapping, police said on Tuesday afternoon. He allegedly drove away with a woman and held her against her will after the deadly shooting.

Police announced charges in a Chicago shooting that killed three people after a bar fight.

Sunday's shooting happened at West Melrose Street and North Central Avenue at about 2:26 a.m., police said.

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Police said Parsons-Salas was at Vera Lounge for Mariah Vera's birthday party, the lounge owner's niece, when he was asked to leave. Police said he shot the four victims at point-blank range.

Vera's father, 50-year-old Ricky Vera was killed, as were 24-year-old Mercedes Tavares and 26-year-old Mario Pozuelos.

"I don't want to go into too much detail on the horrific way these people were killed, but it was heartless," CPD Supt. David Brown said.

He said he hopes Parsons-Salas stays behind bars for good.

"Whatever process goes forward, bond, court, etc., throw away the key," Brown said. "Get this person off our streets. Don't release him on electronic monitoring because he is a danger not only to this community, but to the city of Chicago at large."

Ricky and Pozuelos were shot in the head and body and pronounced dead at the scene, police and the Cook County medical examiner's office said. Tavares was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital and pronounced dead, police and the medical examiner's office said.

"The defendant then walked to where victim two was lying on the ground, shot twice, dying on the street and shot him one more time at close range in the head," prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Salas doubled back, shooting and critically wounding Maria.

"The defendant casually approached victim three as she rendered aid to her father and at close range, shot her in the head," prosecutors added.

Mariah, 25, remains in critical condition at Illinois Masonic Medical Center. She was celebrating her birthday on the night of the shooting.

"As long as she is alive and can hear everybody, that's a blessing right there," said Annette Vega, close friend of the victims.

Police said when they chased down Parsons-Salas at an apartment on West Montrose Monday afternoon, he was holding a woman who was with him at the time of the shooting against her will.

"Everyone involved, including the person the family is upset with, helped us bring charges," Brown said.

Friends of the victims are also outraged Parsons-Salas was released.

"It was definitely chaotic at first, a little bit shocked, confusion. We didn't really know what was going on," said Daniel Burgo, a witness.

Comedian Daniel "Joselito" Burgo performed at a show in Rosemont earlier that night, and was there at Vera's Lounge when gunfire rang out.

"They had just turned on the lights for last call, so as everybody was walking out, shots let off and everybody ran back in. The girl that got shot ran back in and everybody got kind of nervous because we weren't sure if the shooter was coming in as well. So people started ducking under tables," Burgo said.

Surveillance video shows people sprinting down Central Avenue after shots were fired.

"I just feel bad for the families because this is an emotional thing. One second everybody was laughing taking pictures. Everyone is having a good time, and then in one split second everyone's screaming, going crazy. It was just crazy," said Sonny Santiago, another witness.

"Rick will give you the shirt off his back," said Oscar Ortiz, a Vera family friend. "Excellent husband, excellent grandfather, excellent father, excellent brother."

Violent Past

The suspect is already a convicted felon, released on parole in September after serving time for a 2009 home invasion in Albany Park in which two people were killed.

Parsons-Salas is already a convicted felon, released on parole in September after serving time for a 2009 home invasion in Albany Park in which two people were also shot dead.

Parsons-Salas was initially charged with murder in that case, but pleaded guilty to two counts of home invasion.

However, for the mother of Angelina Escobar, 13 years have done little to ease the pain.

"There's a tsunami of grief coming at you," said Escobar's mother, Diana Lauletta. "You don't live with it. You live around it."

Escobar and her boyfriend were shot and killed in 2009 in their Albany Park apartment.

Five years later, then-23-year-old Parsons-Salas was charged with first degree murder, along with another man. But those counts against him were later dropped after he agreed to plead guilty to home invasion charges, which carried an eight-year sentence.

Three months ago, Parsons-Salas was released on parole.

"I was informed of his release and I knew that it was just a matter of time," Lauletta said.

Now, Lauletta is heartbroken once again.

"I have no words to tell you how bad I feel for those families," she said. "My 22-year-old granddaughter, she said it's a prime example of a complete and spectacular failure of the system."

The Cook County State's Attorney's office said it had no comment at this time on that plea agreement in the Escobar case.

Prosecutors said Salas admitted to the shooting and apologized for killing Mercedes Tavares. He appears in court again next month.

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The Sun-Times Media report contributed to this post.