A teen is being held on $5 million bail after he was charged as an adult with the murder of a 16-year-old boy in Highland Park this week — a shooting that has prompted additional safety measures to be put in place at the local high school.
According to Lake County prosecutors, Estiven Sarminento, 16, appeared in court Tuesday after he was arrested on two counts of first-degree murder stemming from the fatal shooting Sunday of 16-year-old Omar Morales-Diaz.
Investigators believe Morales-Diaz was killed in a “targeted” attack. Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart described the shooting as a “brutal execution.”
“We are grateful to the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force and Highland Park Police for their effective work,” he said in a statement. “Outstanding investigators and innovative technology are important to solving violent crime. We are working with the family and express our ongoing support and condolences.”
According to prosecutors, Highland Park police responded to a report of shots fired at around 11:30 a.m. Sunday in the 2300 block of Green Bay Road — just a few blocks away from Highland Park High School where Morales-Diaz attended.
There, police found Morales-Diaz, who had been shot. He was rushed to a local hospital, but died of his injuries.
Investigators have since recovered surveillance videos and other evidence, and conducted interviews that led them to identifying Sarminento, prosecutors said.
According to a preliminary investigation, Morales-Diaz was walking down the sidewalk when he was approached by Sarminento. Following a brief conversation, Sarminento allegedly pulled out a firearm and shot Morales-Diaz.
Saminento is being held at the Hulse Detention Center in Vernon Hills and is due back in court for a hearing Aug. 23.
In the wake of the shooting, Highland Park Superintendent of Schools Bruce Law issued a letter to parents and families indicating that “out of an abundance of caution,” there will be additional security measures installed at Highland Park High School beginning Wednesday.
That includes a previously approved “weapon detection system” which will now be installed this week and an increased police presence at the campus.
“We know how important it is for school to look and feel normal, and we are working to make the beginning of school as joyful and exciting as it always is,” Law said in a statement. “We also know that security is top of mind in our school community and becomes heightened after any incident involving guns. It is an unfortunate sign of our times that the work of schools focuses so much time and attention on security. We will always have safety as our top priority. We should also all work together to make school feel as normal as possible for our students so they take advantage of all our schools have to offer them during this important period of their lives.”