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CHICAGO (AP) — A man and teen were ordered held without bond Thursday in the shooting death of an 8-year-old Chicago girl, who was walking and holding her mother’s hand when she was shot in the head by a gunman authorities say was targeting someone else.
Melissa Ortega died Saturday along a busy city street in a shooting a Cook County Circuit Court judge said showed “an absolute disregard for human life.”
Prosecutors say Xavier Guzman, 27, was driving a car that stopped in the Little Village neighborhood on the city’s Southwest Side on Saturday afternoon after seeing a rival gang member flash gang signs. A 16-year-old then got out of the car and fired, prosecutors said. They say he intended to shoot a 29-year-old gang member who was leaving a store. The teen is being tried as an adult due to the seriousness of the crime, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said.
Both were arrested on charges of first-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder. The teen is also charged with aggravated discharge of a firearm.
Police Superintendent David Brown said Wednesday the two were arrested after detectives analyzed surveillance video and license plate reader technology that allowed them to track down the vehicle Guzman was driving. The surveillance video showed the car pull into an alley, where the gunman got out of the car and began firing, he said. The video then showed the gunman get back in the vehicle, which fled the scene.
Melissa, who was a student at Emiliano Zapata Academy, an elementary school in the city’s heavily-Mexican neighborhood, according to the Chicago Teachers Union, was pronounced dead at a hospital later Saturday.
The man police believe was the intended target was shot in the back and was hospitalized.
The girl’s mother, Araceli Leanos, said in a statement released by a family representative that the two had been walking together immediately before the shooting. She said Melissa had just asked if they could get a hamburger after going to the bank when “My daughter stopped holding my hand and without explanation I found her on the floor with a puddle of blood and a bullet to her head.”
Leanos said her family emigrated to Chicago from Mexico six months ago “in search of the American dream.”
“Instead I get to live a nightmare the rest of my life,” she said.
Chicago has seen a spike in homicides, recording roughly 800 last year — the city’s deadliest in a quarter century.