A 25-year-old woman who had recently moved to Chicago was killed over the weekend when she was hit by a stray bullet outside her apartment in the city's Heart of Chicago neighborhood.
Aaren O’Connor was shot while returning from work around 7:30 p.m. Friday. Police said she was sitting in her car in the 2000 block of West 21st Street when a bullet struck her in the back of the head.
O'Connor’s roommate found her unresponsive in the vehicle.
"Aaren was incredibly kind and would frequently give people 12 chances before harboring any negative feelings towards them," roommate Belinda Luck said.
O'Connor was rushed to John H. Stroger Hospital of Cook County in critical condition and died Sunday, her family said.
"I knew right away that we lost our baby," said her father, David O’Connor. "It’s just absolutely the worst time of my life."
David O'Connor said he was on the phone with his daughter at the time of the shooting and will never forget the last words they exchanged.
"She kept saying repeatedly, 'My head hurts, my head hurts,'" David O'Connor said. "I just wish I could have told her that I knew what was going on and I could have told her one more time that I love her and that I'm so proud of her."
Aaren O’Connor moved to Chicago a year and a half ago from San Diego to work at Tomy, a toy company with offices in suburban Oak Brook.
Her father said he was nervous about his daughter’s move from the beginning.
"I don’t want to say devastated but fearful, because I knew the kind of things happening in Chicago," David O’Connor said.
The move also meant Aaren O'Connor would finally be with her long-distance boyfriend, who lived in suburban Elgin. The couple met while studying abroad in Japan and was looking forward to living together after years of long distance.
"When it really happens to you, it feels like a void," said her boyfriend Carlos Sorto.
Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said police have obtained surveillance footage in connection with the shooting and have "a very good lead from the video." No one was in custody as of Monday evening.
Friends and colleagues in the Chicago area say they vow to keep Aaren O'Connors memory alive by giving at-risk kids in Chicago an outlet to keep them away from violence.
Donations will fund an after-school program and scholarship in her name.
"We want to target people who want to travel abroad since we know that was something that was very passionate for her," said her co-worker Sarah Moen. "To myself, she was a little sister. I saw all the potential in the world in her."
A GoFundMe page had been set up to help O’Connor’s family pay for her funeral. Remaining donations will start the scholarship program in her memory.
"Our long-term goal is to develop an after school program at a community center in Aaren’s name where Chicago’s youth can come together to receive the caring and resources they need to choose a non-violent path and open their hearts to others," the page reads. "Other suggestions to provide healing to our community in Aaren’s memory are welcome and encouraged. May she rest in peace."