East Garfield Park

Chicago Teen Survives Shooting, Recounts Moments When Gunmen Opened Fire at Back-to-School Event

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Ayonna Fleming recounted the horrific and terrifying moments when two gunmen drove by and started shooting into a crowd of people at a back-to-school event over the weekend.

“We were laughing, joking, then out of nowhere we hear, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop,” she said.

The 14-year-old was sitting in a go kart with her step brother when they were hit by bullets.

Fleming was shot twice in both of her legs. Her 12-year-old step brother suffered a graze wound. Their dad rushed them to the hospital.

“I was crying and I was like, 'I can’t do this, my legs are hurting, I can’t' and it was scary,” she said. “I see my legs bleeding out of my pants.”

Fleming was one of at least eight kids shot over the Labor Day holiday weekend in Chicago. Lamar Peterson is thankful his kids are still here.

“I’ve been through traumatizing situations in Iraq, but not like this -- not like seeing my own kids,” he said. “It’s nowhere near the same. There’s nothing that compares that to this.”

Peterson said the back-to-school event was organized by a local rapper and the owner of the gas station near Sacremento and Fulton in the East Garfield Park neighborhood. They had free food, music and entertainment for kids.

“Imagine somebody firing automatic weapons. Imagine that scene of the kids bouncing up and down in the bouncy house, screaming and falling over themselves and running in absolute terror and horror,” he said.

Doctors told Fleming's family, the bullets went through her body. The freshman at Art In Motion school on the South Side now has four bullet holes and fragments in her body. Doctors said it's going to take weeks before she can walk on her own again.

“I never doubted that it could happen to me, but I doubted that it would happen to me. Like I’m good -- I do music, I dance, I’m cheerful,” she said. “But when it happened to me, I was, like, 'wow, God gives his toughest battles to the strongest soldiers.' So I’m just going to get through this.”

While Fleming continues to recover, she’s channeling her energy into her music, trying to stay positive and strong. She said she's praying things will get better, not only for her, but for her city.

“Put the guns down,” she said. “If this generation puts the gun down, the next generation won’t put it up.”

The shooting also injured a 25-year-old man, who was shot multiple times and continues to recover in the hospital, police said. Chicago police are still investigating a motive and have not released a description of the two gunmen.

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