CHICAGO (WLS) -- What really happened at about 3 a.m. when a Chicago ATF agent was shot and wounded?
For many federal law enforcement agents, the 3 a.m. phone call is a regular part of their work and not just a rhetorical campaign question used by politicians.
That was the case when a Chicago federal agent was shot in the face during an undercover operation on the Southwest Side in the early morning hours of last Friday.
Ernesto "Ernie" Godinez, the 27 year old man arrested Monday night and charged with the shooting, allegedly opened fire on the agent and his team as they were changing batteries in a car tracking device according to law enforcement sources and court filings. In what police officials call an "ambush," the shooting occurred at about 3:15 am.
Investigators tell the I-Team that Godinez and his brother Rodrigo are currently co-leaders of the Almighty Saints, a nearly 60-year old street gang based in Chicago's Back of the Yards neighborhood. The brothers were targets of a federal gun and drug investigation at the time of Friday's shooting, according to police sources.
Rodrigo Godinez, 37, was also arrested during the intense manhunt that followed Friday's ambush and is being held by federal authorities-although he is facing drug charges not directly related to the ATF agent shooting. Both Godinez brothers have lengthy criminal rap sheets in Chicago and are convicted felons.
The Almighty Saints, that the brothers allegedly oversee, are among more than 100 major gangs that have carved up city neighborhoods, many times block by block, asserting control of illegal rackets by intimidation, force and gunfire. Some police sources suggest Ernie Godinez may have thought the undercover federal agents were rival gang members when he fired multiple shots-at least seven according to court records. Regardless, he wounded an agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who is in his late 20's.
A surge in gang shootings the past two years in the Back of the Yards, much of it from rifle fire, drew the attention of Chicago police and the ATF. As the dominant criminal organization in that neighborhood, the Almighty Saints became a key initial target for the Chicago Gun Crimes Strike Force that began last June. The strike force is operated by ATF and composed of its agents and officers from other federal law enforcement agencies, Chicago Police and the Illinois State Police.
Despite a $61,000 reward culled from several sources and impassioned pleas from police and public officials for community assistance, law enforcement sources tell the I-Team that there were no tips offered by neighborhood residents in the ATF shooting. That lack of responsiveness by the community is seen as an indication of the stranglehold that the Almighty Saints gang has on residents.
Prior to this incident, the Almighty Saints were best known for a 1998 shooting in which a newly initiated 12 year old member shot and killed two rival gangbangers -- ages 14 and 15. The 12 year old was convicted in juvenile court and sentenced to prison until his 21st birthday.
Shooting suspect Ernesto Godinez turned himself in, after his attorney said surrender arrangements were made with authorities. Some sources say the surrender terms were worked out during conversations that occurred last weekend. The Godinez brother will be spending his 28th birthday tomorrow in the federal lockup in downtown Chicago.
First arrest photo of ATF Chicago shooting suspect
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