Community activists expressed outrage and heartbreak Sunday following the death of an 8-year-old girl who was struck by a stray bullet in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood.
Melissa Ortega and her mother were walking at approximately 2:45 p.m. Saturday in the 4000 block of West 26th Street near Pulaski Road when shots were fired, according to Chicago police.
“Known offenders” shot a 26-year-old man who was leaving a store, the suspects’ intended target, authorities stated. However, they also fired a bullet that struck Melissa in the head, police said.
The young girl was rushed to Stroger Hospital but later passed away as a result of her injuries.
Community leaders say Melissa was in third grade at Emiliano Zapata Academy and her family had just moved to Chicago in August in pursuit of the American dream.
“This family… someone decided to take her life away with one bullet only,” one activist said.
Just days earlier, five kids all under the age of 17, were shot on one single day.
Such incidents involving children have prompted a conversation about change and what needs to be done to make Chicago safer.
“We cannot allow this to become normal,” said Ald. Raymond Lopez of the city’s 15th Ward. “And we cannot let Melissa become another name in a long list of children’s who’s lives were cut short by this endless parade of gang violence in the city of Chicago.”
Police had yet to make any arrests in connection with the young girl’s fatal shooting as of Sunday.
“The system continues to fail us every single day,” said community activist Elizabeth Ramirez. “This child was killed her life did matter. Her family wanted to give her a better life.”
Anyone with information was asked to call Chicago police or submit a tip online.