HAMMOND | Three more East Chicago street gang members pleaded guilty Friday for their roles in a violent wave of murder, drug sales and street violence.
While some of the violence in Friday's admissions involved shooting at rival gang members, two of the defendants admitted to the attempted murder of a fellow member of their own Imperial Gangsters street gang.
Pleading guilty Friday were Armando Jose Velasquez, 26, to counts of racketeering, attempted murder and using a gun in the commission of a violent drug crime; Jason Medina, 30, to counts of racketeering, murder and attempted murder; and Edward Serna, 34, to counts of racketeering and attempted murder.
At his Friday sentencing hearing in Hammond federal court, Velasquez admitted that on Dec. 3, 2011, he was patrolling the streets of East Chicago's south side neighborhood on behalf of the gang, sweeping the streets for rival gang members. He said he was on "patrol," because so many other fellow gang members had been locked up in the same federal indictment under which he eventually was charged.
Velasquez, who said he joined the gang at age 13, testified he began arguing with someone who appeared to be a rival gang member that day.
Ultimately, Velasquez said he fired several shots into the victim's car, striking the man several times.
Federal prosecutor David Nozick said an investigation by authorities revealed the victim was not a rival gang member.
In a separate incident, Medina and Serna were charged together for a June 6, 2011, incident in which they admitted to the attempted murder of a fellow Imperial Gangster member.
Serna admitted in court Friday that he was driving Medina and another fellow gang member that day when their vehicle pulled beside another car occupied by other fellow gang members.
Serna said Medina jumped out of the car and began firing shots into the vehicle of the other gang members.
Serna, who said he joined the gang at age 16, said the shooting was motivated by the slaying of a fellow gang member and that the targeted gang members had threatened to kill Serna as well.
In a separate Friday hearing, Medina, who said he had been a gang member since age 12, admitted to his role in the June 6 incident.
Medina also admitted to the July 24, 2005, fatal shooting a rival member of the Two Six street gang in Gary.
"It was a random act," Medina said, noting the Two Sixes also had been targeting members of his gang. "We saw him and pulled up on them," Medina said.
All three men admitted to their larger roles in helping further the gang's goal of selling drugs and guns. The defendants were charged in a sweeping indictment involving more than 20 defendants.
Under the plea agreements for Velasquez and Medina, their sentences will be capped at a maximum of 30 years in prison. U.S. District Judge Philip Simon said he will have discretion to go lower than that at sentencing.
Medina and Serna are scheduled to be sentenced June 19 in U.S. District Court, Hammond. Simon set a June 6 sentencing hearing for Velasquez.