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Relatives of teen wrestler fatally shot outside her Chicago home plead for justice

Melissa de la Garza's father said her next move was art school. “For someone to come and take that away for no reason, it doesn’t make any sense."

A teenager who wrestled at the Chicago high school she had recently graduated from was fatally shot while she sat in a parked car outside her home, and her grieving relatives pleaded with the public to help police find who killed her.

The woman, Melissa de la Garza, 18, died after she was shot multiple times Saturday night in the West Elsdon neighborhood on the southwest side of Chicago.

"It's hard to put into words the loss that we're feeling," her father, Jose de la Garza, said Sunday, NBC Chicago reported. With tears welling up in his eyes, he said his daughter was a "warrior princess."

He said she excelled at wrestling at Solorio Academy High School, taking second place in the state. She had also earned a scholarship to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, NBC Chicago reported.

"For someone to come and take that away for no reason, it doesn't make any sense," he said at a news conference.

Jose de la Garza told NBC News on Tuesday that his family was "hanging in there."

"We're strong, and we're inching every day forward," he said.

De la Garza's mother said in Spanish that the family will have more to say during funeral services this weekend. With emotion in her voice, she called her daughter by her nickname, "Azul," which means blue in Spanish.

Police said the slaying occurred about 8:30 p.m. Saturday. De la Garza, who was in a parked car, had "multiple gunshot wounds to the torso" and was hospitalized in critical condition. An unidentified male "fled the scene on foot," police said.

There had been no arrests as of Tuesday afternoon, police said.

Chicago Public School officials chronicled De la Garza's experiences as an athlete in 2018 in an interview called "Meet Solorio's Only Female Wrestler." She was a 15-year-old freshman at the time.

She said of being the only girl on the wrestling team, "I really don't believe I'm that special for being the only female wrestler."

"I strongly believe that there should be more girls in the sport," de la Garza said. "I remember when I first started wrestling. In our first team meeting I had never felt so many eyes on me. There were about 25 guys in the room and this small girl, me, just walks in."

She said in the interview that her family were her biggest supporters.

"Even if my mom is terrified that I may come home with a broken arm one day, she still supports me and wants me to do my best," she said.

According to citywide statistics from police, there had been 602 slayings this year as of last week, compared with 580 slayings during the same period last year.

De la Garza's older sister, Isabel de la Garza, said she couldn't fathom why someone would shoot her little sister, NBC Chicago reported. She said they recently spoke on FaceTime about Halloween costumes.

"Bye, I love you, Isabel," she recalled her sister saying. "And that was the last time I was able to speak to my sister — through a screen."