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Sources: Beaten teen mistaken as rival gang member; charges filed

Brian DeLeon

Brian DeLeon

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Updated: November 10, 2011 2:37PM

Cornered in a dark side street by a pair of baseball bat-wielding Maniac Latin Disciples last week, 14-year-old Brian DeLeon pleaded that he didn’t belong to a rival gang.

A good kid who was “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” DeLeon was telling the truth, police say.

But the men who beat him close to death either didn’t believe him — or they didn’t care.

As detectives Tuesday questioned suspects in a brutal attack that may yet prove fatal, DeLeon remained comatose and in grave condition at Children’s Memorial Hospital with a hole in his head the size of a silver dollar.

One suspect — Esteban Miranda, 19, of the 1600 block of N. Maplewood — was charged with attempted murder and armed robbery, police said. Miranda also is accused of taking the teen’s cell phone.

The suspects wrongly believed that DeLeon was a member of the rival Spanish Cobras street gang when they accosted him around 9:15 p.m. on Sept. 13 in the 2900 block of West Bloomingdale, police sources said. DeLeon called his girlfriend, Dayana Vasquez, during the attack and left a voice message in which someone can be heard saying the words “Cobra killer,” Vasquez said last week.

Described by his former principal at Yates Elementary School, Harry Randell, as an “all around wonderful kid” who does not hang around with troublemakers, DeLeon had been studying and playing video games with Vasquez at her aunt’s home earlier that night.

He had just left his girlfriend when he was attacked.

When he didn’t answer her calls, she went looking for him with her mother and found him on the sidewalk minutes later, covered in blood, she said. His injuries were so severe that paramedics initially believed he’d been shot.

Randell, Ald. Rey Colon (35th) and police met Tuesday afternoon with concerned parents at Yates, which is yards from the scene of the attack. Parents asked if a park next to the school, which has become a hangout for gangs, could be locked at night and urged extra security cameras be installed. Colon said he would try to help but cautioned the parents that cameras cannot prevent all crimes and added, “It’s up to all of us to take our community back from the gang-bangers.”

Though DeLeon is now a freshman at Marine Science and Math Academy, parents at Yates have been fund-raising and cooking for DeLeon’s family, who remain at his side, Colon said.

Gangs including the Maniac Latin Disciples and the Spanish Cobras have been warring in the area for some time, police say. He’s “a straight kid,” Shakespeare District police Capt. Marc Buslik said. “It’s a real shame.”

Contributing: Rosemary Sobol and Sun-Times Media Wire

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