7-year-old girl critically wounded in Christmas morning shooting

CHICAGO —In the predawn hours of Christmas morning, a burst of gunfire on Chicago’s Southwest Side disrupted a family’s holiday celebration and left a 7-year-old girl fighting for her life.

The child was watching television in the living room of a multifamily building just after 1:30 a.m. Wednesday in the 3500 block of South Washtenaw Avenue when gunshots rang out, according to Chicago police.

Outside the dwelling, a 38-year-old man, who police said was the apparent target of the shooting, was hit in leg. An errant bullet flew through a window of the home, tore through a couch and hit the girl in the abdomen.

As emergency vehicles arrived at the scene, lights from a Chicago police SUV and an ambulance flashed alongside the strobing Christmas bulbs on decorations outside the building, video taken by Network Video Productions and obtained by the Tribune shows.

A paramedic emerged from the home and carried the girl in his arms to the ambulance, a moment captured in the same video. Speechless and wide-eyed, two men and a woman could be seen trailing closely behind emergency personnel as the girl was loaded inside the waiting vehicle.

She was rushed to Stroger Hospital, where she was listed in critical condition.

The girl, who lives in suburban Hanover Park, was visiting relatives at the Brighton Park home, said Andrew Holmes, a crisis responder and community activist who spoke with the family Wednesday morning.

Moments before the gunfire erupted, the girl was playing with her two younger cousins in front of a couch in the living room while her aunts and uncles sat around the dining table, eating and talking, Holmes told the Chicago Tribune after speaking with family members.

The man who was also shot walked into St. Anthony’s Hospital for treatment, police said. His condition was stabilized, and he was expected to be transferred to Mount Sinai Hospital, authorities said.

No one was in custody Wednesday afternoon.

The shooting grabbed the attention of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who expressed concern for the family and called the public to come forward with any information that might help Chicago police find the person responsible.

It was the second time in recent months that a child has been injured in a holiday shooting, coming after another 7-year-old was shot while trick-or-treating in the Little Village neighborhood on Halloween. That child survived.

“As we gather for the holiday, we renew our commitment to protect our children from harm,” Lightfoot said on Twitter. “Praying for the young girl struck by a bullet in Brighton Park. To the family, CPD will do everything possible to bring the perpetrator to justice. As a City, you have our love and support.”

Police said the shots appeared to have been fired from the sidewalk outside into the home, where the family gathering was taking place.

At least six creased notecards served as evidence markers and appeared next to shell casings strewn across 35th Place on Wednesday morning. Police later placed a band of red tape across the gate to the building and the doorway to the unit.

The red brick multifamily building where the child was shot sits across the street from Burroughs Elementary School. A hand railing outside the home was decorated in silver, red and green garland early Wednesday. The bullet that apparently struck the girl left a hole through a window still decorated with a sign carrying the festive message: “Merry Christmas,” with an image of a Christmas tree.

Christmas morning, Holmes canvassed the area, searching for tips that might help police lead to an arrest in the shooting. Area Central police detectives were investigating.

“I don’t feel like doing Christmas today,” Holmes said. “I want to help this family. This child’s Christmas has turned into a disaster.

“Hopefully we can find the individual who discharged that weapon. That should be Christmas for them, Christmas for me.”

The shooting was one of several overnight Tuesday into the early morning hours Wednesday.

Shortly after 2 a.m., a 27-year-old man was walking in the McKinley Park neighborhood when he heard shots and felt pain. He was taken with a gunshot wound to the right leg to St. Anthony Hospital, police said.

About 3:15 a.m., a 32-year-old man was shot while he was walking in the Austin neighborhood. He was walking through a gas station parking lot when he suffered a graze wound to the shoulder. He was being treated at Loretto Hospital, according to police.