An Aurora street gang member is headed to prison for unlawfully possessing a handgun and pointing it at an Aurora police officer. Erik J. Esparza, 20, of the 3N block of East Mary Lane, St. Charles, was sentenced late Friday, March 18, 2016, by Circuit Judge Donald M. Tegeler Jr. to nine years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.
Esparza was convicted Feb. 3, 2016, by a Kane County jury of unlawful possession of a firearm by a street gang member, a Class 2 felony, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, a Class 2 felony, and aggravated assault, a Class A misdemeanor.
In addition, Esparza was ordered to serve 14 days for contempt of court for failing to obey a court order to provide a DNA sample.
Prosecutors presented evidence that at about 7:20 p.m. July 11, 2015, two Aurora police officers who were inside an unmarked police car and working undercover in the vicinity of Parker Avenue and Pearl Street on Aurora’s near east side saw Esparza and the co-defendant. The defendants, both street gang members, were acting suspiciously. As the undercover vehicle approached the defendants to investigate, Esparza raised a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun and pointed it directly at one of the officers. The officer, fearing for his life, then fired two shots at Esparza. No one was hit. Esparza and the co-defendant immediately fled on foot. The co-defendant was captured near the scene. Police found Esparza lying in weeds between two garages in the 300 block of East Ashland Avenue about 11⁄2 hours later.
Esparza had faced a sentence of between three and 10 years in prison.
The nine-year prison term is to be served consecutive to the 14-day contempt of court sentence.
According to Illinois law, Esparza is eligible for day-for-day credit. He receives credit for 244 days served in the Kane County jail, where he was held after his arrest in lieu of $200,000 bail. Bond was revoked upon conviction.
The case was prosecuted by Kane County Assistant State’s Attorneys Joseph Cullen and Alexander Bederka.
The co-defendant’s case is pending. The charges against the co-defendant are not proof of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial in which it is the state’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
SOURCE: Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office news release