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Activists expressed their anger and demanded justice for the accidental killing of eight-year-old Melissa Ortega in Illinois.
Melissa was shot in the head by a stray bullet on Saturday as gunfire had erupted around her in the Southwest Side neighbourhood in Chicago’s Little Village area, where she was walking with her mother.
“Known offenders” had fired shots at a 26-year-old man who was leaving from a nearby store.
A stray bullet, however, struck Melissa, who was not the intended target, said the police.
The eight-year-old was rushed to Stroger hospital where she later died, the authorities added. The 26-year-old was shot in the back and remains in critical condition in Mount Sinai Hospital, according to officials.
Police are yet to make arrests in connection to the fatal shooting.
Melissa, who was a student at the Emiliano Zapada Academy, and her mother had emigrated to Chicago from Mexico last year, according to family members organising an online effort to pay for her funeral.
A memorial was also dedicated to Melissa where dozens gathered to express their grief and outrage over the girl’s death.
“The system continues to fail us every single day,” community activist Elizabeth Ramirez was quoted as saying by NBC Chicago.
“This child was killed, her life did matter. Her family wanted to give her a better life.”
“You shot this little girl’s brains out. It’s time for justice. I don’t care who your target was. You targeted that little girl. When you miss, you hit our babies! This was somebody’s baby,” community activist Andrew Holmes told Fox 32 Chicago.
“I am outraged and heartbroken that yet another young child’s life was cut short by a senseless gun violence. I feel Melissa Ortega’s parents’ pain and anger,” said Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García. “Our country must address the root causes of violence on our streets.”
I am outraged and heartbroken that another child’s life was cut short by senseless gun violence. I feel Melissa Ortega’s parents’ pain and anger. Our country must address the root causes of violence on our streets. https://t.co/oZS1kikblU
— Congressman Chuy García (@RepChuyGarcia) January 23, 2022
“Working class communities need access to jobs for youth, health care, affordable housing and education. Our neighbourhoods and families cannot wait. I join her family and our neighbours in praying for Melissa and for an end to the violence that plagues our city,” he added.
Chicago mayor Lori E Lightfoot also tweeted her condolences to the “heartbroken family and shattered community” and encouraged the residents and community members to share the information about the shooter.
We cannot let fear cause us to lose our humanity. Please come forward so that Melissa's family will know that there is justice for her.
— Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot (@chicagosmayor) January 23, 2022
“We cannot let fear cause us to lose our humanity. Please come forward so that Melissa’s family will know that there is justice for her,” she wrote.
Residents and community members gather to remember Melissa Ortega. If you have any information contact the @Chicago_Police or leave an anonymous tip at https://t.co/tiYRTLc0eV. #CPDMediaCar
📞 833-408-0069- Anonymous Tips pic.twitter.com/bw4VVmTwmS
— Chicago Police (@Chicago_Police) January 23, 2022
Fear and violence, guns and gangs have no place in this city, and it will take all of us working together to stop it. If you have any information about this senseless crime, please call our anonymous tip line: 833-408-0069. Eligible tips can receive a reward of up to $15,000.
— Chicago Police Superintendent David O. Brown (@ChiefDavidBrown) January 23, 2022
Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown also issued a statement asking people to share anonymous tips about the incident on 833-408-0069.