UPDATE: A Winnebago County jury has found Lamar Coates guilty of felony murder in the death of Michael Sago, Jr., in the Marie's Pizza shooting. Coates was also found guilty of attempted armed robbery, mob action and conspiracy. He was found not guilty of attempted first degree murder of the shop's owner.
ROCKFORD (WIFR) – A big development in the Marie’s Pizza murder trial as the judge rules on some of the charges against Lamar Coates.
Judge Gary Pumilia ruled not guilty on some of the charges Lamar Coates faced including armed robbery and the attempted murder of Winnebago County Sheriff’s Deputy Frank Pobjecky. However, the trial isn’t over yet.
The jury will still rule on the other counts. Judge Pumilia issued the directed verdict this afternoon saying prosecutors didn’t prove and armed robbery happened at Marie’s Pizza in October 2011 and testimony didn’t show Coates intended to kill Deputy Pobjecky. Although Pobjecky said Coates put a gun to his head, Detective Eric Swenson testified Vincenzo Tarara, the owner of Marie’s Pizza, didn’t include that piece of information in his written statement just hours after the shooting happened.
Coates still faces numerous charges including the felony murder of Michael Sago Jr. and the attempted murder of Tarara.
Closing arguments begin tomorrow morning. The jury is expected to get the case and begin deliberating tomorrow.
ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- An aggressive suspect and a fight over a gun that ended with a bloody murder scene. That's what Winnebago County Sheriff's Deputy Frank Pobjecky described as he testified against Lamar Coates in the Marie's Pizza murder trial.
“I know that was our only hope of survival was if I can gain access to his weapon and use it to protect us," Winnebago County Sheriff’s Deputy Frank Pobjecky, testified.
That's what was going through Deputy Pobjecky's head on October 1, 2011. He was off duty as he watched his friend, Vincenzo Tarara struggle over a gun with Lamar Coates, the accused gunman in an armed robbery at Marie’s Pizza.
Pobjecky didn't have his gun with him, but knew Tarara usually wore his gun in a holster around his waist.
"If I didn't get this weapon, we had no more weapons or anything. We would have been done," Pobjecky said.
Pobjecky says Coates was violent and aggressive when he and three others stormed into Marie’s Pizza, demanding money. Fearing for his life and others in the shop, Pobjecky fought off one of the robbers for Tarara's gun as Tarara struggled with Coates.
When Pobjecky got Tarara's gun he says someone ran towards him, so he started shooting.
"I knew the only way to save my life and the lives of other people was to respond with deadly force," he said.
The deputy fired all nine bullets in the gun, shooting the four robbers, killing Michael Sago Jr. Coates is charged with Sago's death because he was allegedly committing a felony when the teen died.
Pobjecky says sago posed a deadly threat when asked by the defense why he shot the teen who was the last one in the store and wearing a light colored hoodie instead of a dark one like the others.
The Winnebago County Integrity Task Force cleared Pobjecky of any wrongdoing. Sago's family is suing him claiming the deputy failed to provide medical care and used excessive force.
Pobjecky says Lamar Coates, the alleged gunman and defendant had a violent and aggressive demeanor when he stormed into the pizza shop. Pobjecky says he was scared for his life and for others in the business. He went on to describe a violent struggle over a gun with one of the four accused robbers as the stores owner fought with Coates over another gun. When he got the gun, Pobjecky says that same robber charged at him, which is when he fired the first shot. Pobjecky used all nine bullets in the gun bud didn’t know he shot all four alleged robbers until everything was said and done. One of the suspects, Michael Sago Jr. died. Coates’ lawyer is placing the blame on Pobjecky instead of his client. The Winnebago County Integrity Task Force cleared Pobjecky of any wrong doing.
The prosecution is expected to finish calling witnesses tomorrow.
ROCKFORD (WIFR) – It was an armed robbery that went terribly wrong, ending with all four alleged robbers being shot, and the youngest, a 16-year-old, dead. 23 News Reporter Marissa Sherer was in court today for the murder trial of the 16-year-old’s half-brother and alleged accomplice.
Today we heard from the owner of Marie’s Pizza who recalled a terrifying struggle to grab the gun he says the defendant, Lamar Coates, pointed at his head during that armed robbery back in October 2011.
Owner Vincenzo Tarara says it was around 10:30 at night when Coates and the there others came into his pizza shop, demanded money, and pointed a gun at him. Tarara says when he go the chance, he grabbed the barrel of Coates’ gun and put his finger behind the trigger so Coates couldn’t shoot, and began head-butting him. Tarara says during the struggle, his friend, off-duty Sheriff’s Deputy Frank Pobjecky grabbed Tarara’s gun and shot all four accused robbers, killing Michael Sago.
During opening arguments, prosecutors told the jury if Coates hadn’t tried robbing the store, Sago would be alive today. The defense argued Coates didn’t shoot the gun and shouldn’t be held accountable for Sago’s death.
Trial dates have not been set for the other two accused of murder for Sago’s death.