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16-year-old arrested in Chicago shooting that killed 8-year-old girl

The gunman fired at a group of "purported gang members" Saturday, striking Melissa Ortega as she walked with her mother, police said.
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Two people have been charged in a shooting that killed an 8-year-old girl as she held her mother’s hand on a Chicago street over the weekend, police said Wednesday.

A 16-year-old accused of firing the fatal shot that killed Melissa Ortega and the 27-year-old driver of the vehicle involved were arrested this week, police said.

The teenager was firing at a group of “purported gang members” standing on a street corner in the Little Village neighborhood shortly before 3 p.m. Saturday, Chicago Police Superintendent David O. Brown said.

Melissa was shot in the head by one of those rounds as she and her mother crossed the street, he said.

“Melissa was a precious little girl. And it is unacceptable that she is the latest Chicagoan to fall victim to senseless, senseless gang violence,” Brown said at a news conference.

The 16-year-old, whose identity has not been released, was arrested Tuesday. He has been charged with one count of murder, one count of attempted murder, two counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm in an occupied vehicle, and one count of unlawful use of a weapon, police said.

The driver, Xavier Guzman, was arrested Monday and also charged with murder, attempted murder and unlawful use of a weapon, police said.

A 29-year-old man described as the intended target was shot and wounded as he fled, police have said.

Image: Child death
Flowers and balloons at a makeshift memorial for 8-year-old Melissa Ortega, in Chicago, on Jan. 24, 2022.Paul Beaty / AFP - Getty Images

Melissa and her mother had moved to the United States from Mexico six months ago, and came to Chicago three months ago to be closer to family.

“We imagined a better life here. We came in search of the American dream we so famously hear of, but instead I get to live a nightmare for the rest of my life,” the mother said in a statement read at the news conference.

Melissa had just asked if her mother could buy her a hamburger and the mother replied yes before the girl stopped holding her mother’s hand and collapsed, fatally shot, the statement said.

The child’s mother also said that she forgives the shooter. “As a 16-year-old, the community failed you,” she said. She called for more to be done to combat gun violence and to make the neighborhood safer.

Brown, the police superintendent, said video showed a passenger get out of a vehicle that had driven into an alley, fire a handgun, and then get back in before the vehicle leaves.

The car and a handgun that matched bullet casings and bullets found at the scene was found Monday, Brown said.

Saturday’s gunfire nearly hit other bystanders. Several bullets hit a vehicle that had a man and his 9-year-old daughter inside, Brown said, but neither were injured.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Saturday’s tragedy adds to the those of others lost to gun violence in the city, and added that her office, police and prosecutors are dedicated to addressing the issue.

“We’re committed,” Lightfoot said. “And I know the people of this community are committed. We need an army of the willing to turn around the tide of violence in our city.”

There were 797 murders in Chicago in 2021, up from 772 the year before, according to the Police Department.

Chicago is one of five cities targeted by federal “firearms trafficking strike forces” announced last year, which were to focus on the sources and corridors used to send guns to cities where they are used in crimes.