Two children, ages 7 and 13, were shot Friday afternoon on a playground at an elementary school on Chicago's South Side during an end of the year picnic, authorities said.
The shooting occurred at Warren Elementary School in the 9200 block of South Jeffery Avenue, police said. The girls' injuries are not life-threatening, fire officials said. Three juveniles were in custody Thursday night, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said, but no charges had been filed.
Former students of the school tried to gain access to the end of year picnic about 1:30 p.m., Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said. School security knew who the former students were and refused to let them in. The former students then went to the corner of 92nd and Chapel where they "loitered," Johnson said. A black vehicle, later determined to be stolen, pulled up and someone inside started shooting at them, he said.
“The individuals being shot at then ran back into the picnic area drawing that fire to the folks that were in there enjoying the picnic,” Johnson said.
A 7-year-old girl was shot in the thigh, and a 13-year-old girl was shot in the hand, according to Chicago Fire officials. Both were transferred to Comer Children's Hospital. The girls were unintended targets, police said.
“We stand here now looking at a 7-year-old and a -year-old being shot at an end of the year school picnic—it’s just ridiculous,” he said. “It angers me that these little children can not grow up in a neighborhood and not think that gunfire is the norm—because it’s not normal—it’s not OK.”
Tyrone Wright, 7-year-old JayLa Wright's father, said he felt in shock when he got the call and had tears in his eyes.
Emerson Hart is the father of the 13-year-old daughter Dakayla was shot in the hand. He said he drove nearly two hours from Michigan City, Indiana, when his ex-wife called him with the news.
“She’s a good girl, always had good grades, she do what she can to help people,” he said of his eighth-grade daughter. “This is my worst nightmare, this is why I didn’t want them in Chicago."
“The funny thing is, I knew this would happen to me,” he said. “I had a feeling from the time they moved here—that this would happen.”
Hart stood outside the hospital with his older daughter, 18-year-old Daytonna, and smoked a cigarette as he fingered through the plastic picture frames in his wallet for a photo of his wounded, youngest child.
“This is a terrible Fathers Day weekend for me cause now my child has to live with being shot—and she’s never gonna forget,” Hart said.
Both father and daughter voiced outrage at those responsible for shooting into a crowded school playground.
“If ya’ll wanna kill each other, go ahead, just don’t do it where there’s kids at,” Daytonna said.
“If it was up to be—I would take the ban—and ban all guns,” Emerson said.
At least two persons of interest from the black car the shooting was alleged to have come from were being questioned, Johnson said.
“This just goes to show you again, that the violence in this city is just completely unacceptable,” the superintendent said. “It’s mind-boggling to me how leaders in this city choose to ignore certain things.”
Johnson blamed the lack of accountability on elected officials but said a recent piece of legislation aiming to hold repeat gun offenders accountable was an appreciated step in the right direction. That bill now sits on Gov. Bruce Rauner's desk.
“It can’t just be CPD and the mayor carrying this flag, it takes all of us, we have to come together as a city to prevent this violence,” he said. “It takes the police department and elected officials, the clergy, community members.”
Johnson noted that the neighborhood was not normally "prone to gun violence in that nature," but the problem is city-wide.
“We have too many illegal guns and too many people willing to pick them up,” he said. “And then we get them into the judicial system and we just spit ‘em right back out—to do the same thing—would you stop doing it if it were you? No, there’s no consequence.”
“Until we close that loophole we’ll continue to see this cycle of violence,” he added.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel visited with the victims' family members at Comer Children's Hospital where the girls were receiving treatment.
“There is no person in Chicago who is not disgusted by that incident,” Emanuel told reporters outside the hospital. “I say this as a father of three children: this is a parent’s worst nightmare."
Emanuel said he was heading to the school to talk to the principal and staff.
“I just want to emphasize, that despite this incident, the schools are the very safest place the children can be,” Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool told reporters.
The last two days of school will include increased police presence and if Warren students could not be released to a parent or guardian, Claypool said, a police would escort them home in a squad car.
Johnson said police want to speak with the former students who were shot at but they had not yet been found.