A birthday party ended in tragedy near a Belmont Cragin establishment over the weekend, leaving three dead and a woman fighting for her life.
Authorities say the shooting happened near the Vera Salon, located in the 3200 block of North Central Avenue, just before 2:30 a.m. Sunday.
An argument reportedly escalated into gunfire, with three victims pronounced dead shortly afterwards.
The fourth, 25-year-old Mariah Vera, was celebrating her birthday but is now fighting for her life after the shooting.
Luis Ortiz worked with Rick Vera, who was killed in the shooting, and his daughter Mariah Vera at a Belmont Cragin heating and cooling distributor for years..
“Rick and Mariah always had this unique father-daughter relationship. Very together, he wanted her to be one of the best women in the HVAC industry,” he said.
Ortiz says Rick was like family, and Mariah – who is fighting for her life tonight – was Rick’s protege
“He would be on the rooftops with him, welding,” he said. “He wanted the best for Mariah. He wanted her to take over the business one day and excel. As a girl, she didn’t have to limit herself. between us.”
Early Sunday morning at the Vera Lounge on North Central Avenue and School Street, they were celebrating Mariah’s 25th birthdaye birthday party with his family and friends at his uncle’s bar.
Chicago police say there was an incident inside the bar, a physical altercation, and it spilled onto the street. Shots were then fired, hitting four people.
Rick, 50, was shot in the head and pronounced dead. Mercedes Tavares, 24 and mother of three, was also killed, as was a third victim, Mario Pozuelos, 26.
“He was going through a lot too back then. So he would help you,” said Pozuelos’ friend Zoey Thiemann. “He was just a great guy and he was gathering his stuff. He got robbed too soon.”
Ortiz started an online fundraiser by the HVAC community for medical and funeral expenses.
“I know Rick would have done the same and helped. I’m just trying to do what Rick would have done,” he said.