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Caught in a storm of gunfire, an 8-year-old girl was struck and killed by a stray bullet Sunday, while walking in Chicago’s Little Village with her mom.
Melissa Ortega was fatally hit in the head by one of several rounds fired by a known gang member, according to an internal report obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.
After reviewing surveillance video, investigators determined that a male, clad all in black, stepped out of an alley near 26th Street and Komensky Avenue and began firing at a 26-year-old man, identified in the report as a member of the Gangster Two Six street gang. As the man attempted to flee, the shooter kept shooting.
More than a dozen shell casings were later found at the scene.
Ortega was taken to a local hospital and pronounced dead. The intended target, who also sustained bullet wounds, was left in critical condition.
Witness Oscar Guevara told CBS Chicago that he heard numerous shots before coming to the little girl’s aid.
“I heard the mother screaming for help,” Guevara said. “I had [a] cover, and we put it over her to keep her warm. But there was really nothing we could do.”
“She tried to get up at one point, and that was the hardest part to see,” the witness added. “She tried to get up and she, like, looked around, and she laid back down.”
Ortega and her mother had just emigrated from Mexico in August.
The incident prompted calls for justice and change from city leaders.
“This is an 8-year-old Latina who could’ve been someone,” said activist Keith Thornton.
As of Monday morning, police have no one in custody, but Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown vowed in a tweet to deliver justice for Melissa.
The Chicago Police Department stands with the Little Village community in the wake of this unthinkable tragedy and won’t stop working until we find justice for this precious child and her family.
— Chicago Police Superintendent David O. Brown (@ChiefDavidBrown) January 23, 2022
While the sentiment sounds good, many were quick to express their doubts, as confidence in Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago chief continues to wane among record numbers of homicides and carjackings.
Yesterday, I saw a news conference featuring Chicago's Chief of Police, David Brown saying that overall crime in Chicago was down – tonight I saw this: Girl, 8, killed by stray bullet in Little Village shooting.
— Ron Milner (@RonMilnerBoodle) January 23, 2022
A memorial, laden with flowers and teddy bears, has grown around the scene of the tragedy, and a GoFundMe page has raised more than double its initial goal of $20,000 to help her family pay for funeral expenses and to have her buried in her hometown in Mexico.
Witness Guevara said the shooting, which reportedly also took the life of his brother, has got to stop.
“Innocent people just walking and enjoying their day and tragedy hits them in one second,” he said.
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