Media accounts indicate that the child and her mother were passing through Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood on the city’s west side when a suspect opened fire at a man walking out of a store. Ortega was shot twice in the side of her head and was rushed to a nearby hospital where she was soon pronounced dead.
No suspect has yet been arrested in connection with the shooting, which authorities believe was gang-related. On Sunday, city officials and community activists called on the killer to step forward and turn himself in to investigators.
Melissa Ortega Killed By Stray Bullet
According to a police report first obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times Ortega and her mother were headed east along West 26th Street through the Little Village neighborhood just before 3 p.m. when gunfire erupted.
During the chaos, her mother told authorities, Ortega “went limp.” He had been shot two times on the right side of her head, the report said.
Emergency personnel were called to the intersection of West 26th and Pulaski Road, loading the young girl into an ambulance and rushing her to Stroger Hospital, just a few miles toward the city center.
Within two hours, Ortega was declared dead.
Police investigators reviewed security footage from a nearby business, per the Sun-Times report. The video showed a “male, dressed in all black” stepping out from an alley and firing 13 shots from a 9 mm handgun at a 26-year-old man who had just emerged from a shop on 26th Street.
The apparent target was not identified, though the newspaper reported that he is a twice-convicted felon. He was struck twice in the back, and was in critical condition at Mount Sinai Hospital as of midday Sunday.
Community Demands Suspect Step Forward
As investigators search for the suspect caught on security footage, activists and city officials are calling on the accused killer to turn himself in.
“You shot this little girl’s brains out,” said Andrew Holmes, a community organizer. “It’s time for justice. I don’t care who your target was. You targeted that little girl. When you miss, you hit our babies! This was somebody’s baby.”
“You slept on a pillow last night […] while this baby was laying on a steel table at the medical examiner’s office,” Holmes continued. “You come here as a punk and you lay this little girl’s brains out on the street.”
The activist also urged residents and vendors on 26th Street to review their surveillance cameras for clues that might lead to the shooter’s capture.
On Twitter, Mayor Lori Lightfoot offered condolences to Ortega’s family and offered a $10,000 reward for tips that result in an arrest. She also echoed calls for the 8-year-old’s killer to identify himself.
“We cannot let fear cause us to lose our humanity,” the mayor wrote. “Please come forward so that Melissa’s family will know that there is justice for her.”
According to local reports, Melissa Ortega and her mother had emigrated from Mexico in August, and had settled in the Little Village, a Chicano enclave nicknamed “the Mexico of the Midwest.” At the time of her death, Ortega was a student at Emiliano Zapata Academy, just a few blocks away from the intersection where she was killed.
“They were both excited to start a new life in Chicago and build their American Dream,” wrote a well-wisher on a GoFundMe page on Saturday night.
Set up to assist with funeral costs and legal fees, the crowdfunding page surpassed its $20,000 goal within hours of going live. As of Sunday, community members have pledged more than $30,000.