An eight-year-old girl who recently moved to Chicago from Mexico was shot dead over the weekend, the latest apparent victim of gang violence in the midwest US city.
Melissa Ortega was walking with her mother in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood Saturday afternoon when gunshots rang out, police said.
The girl and her mother sprinted towards a nearby bank for safety, but Ortega was struck twice in the head and killed.
Police said the gunman’s apparent target was a 26-year-old man, a suspected member of the Gangster Two Six street gang, who was hit in the lower back and hospitalized.
The Gangster Two Six street gang has been feuding with two other local gangs — the Latin Saints and the Latin Kings.
At least 13 9mm shell casings were found near the scene of the shooting. The shooter remains at large.
Chicago, the United States’ third-largest city, led the nation for murders in 2021 with more than 836, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office — the most in 25 years.
There have been 34 murders in the city so far this year, according to the Chicago Tribune.
A GoFundMe set up for the Ortega family said the little girl and her mother had recently moved to Chicago from Mexico to “build their American Dream.”
It said she will be buried in her hometown of Los Sauces in the Mexican state of Tabasco.
Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown denounced Ortega’s murder at a press conference on Monday.
“We owe it to Melissa and her family and the city to hold every person involved accountable,” Brown said.
“It’s just unspeakable to lose the life of an eight-year-old, a little girl, under these circumstances, or any circumstances for that matter.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot pledged to “send a very clear message and strike very hard blows against every gang member in our city.”
“Obviously, this little girl was not the intended target, but the fact that they are reckless and operate without any regard for the sanctity of human life, we have got to stand up and stop them and use every tool at our disposal to do so,” she said.
Ortega’s death comes less than two weeks after two 14-year-old boys were murdered in separate incidents in Chicago.
Jason Ivy was standing on a sidewalk on the city’s West Side on January 13 when witnesses said two people walked up and shot him twice in the chest.
A few hours later, 14-year-old James Sweezer was walking with a friend on the city’s South Side when someone in a dark-colored vehicle shot him in the head.
According to the site Gun Violence Archive, more than 44,000 people were killed by guns in the United States last year, including suicides, of which 1,517 were minors.