Video: In this week’s edition of Spotlight Politics: Mayor Lightfoot appeared with Police Superintendent David Brown and Cook County States Attorney Kim Foxx Wednesday to announce charges in the fatal shooting of 8-year-old Melissa Ortega in Little Village. Our Spotlight Politics team weighs in on that and more. (Produced by Alex Silets)
Two people are in custody facing murder charges in connection with the fatal shooting of 8-year-old Melissa Ortega in the Little Village neighborhood over the weekend.
Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown joined Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx to announce charges Wednesday against a 16-year-old boy and 27-year-old Xavier Guzman.
“We found the offenders responsible for taking Melissa's life and they have been charged,” Brown said.
The teen, who police said was the shooter, has been charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder. Guzman, who allegedly acted as the getaway driver, also faces murder, attempted murder and unauthorized use of a weapon charges.
According to Brown, three purported gang members were standing on the corner of 26th and Kominsky just before 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon. At that time, a vehicle allegedly driven by Guzman and the teen pulled into a nearby alley. Moments later, the teen got out of the car and began firing at the men, striking Ortega as she and her mother crossed the street, according to Brown.
Police detectives identified the suspects’ vehicle using surveillance video, and that car was located by investigators Monday. Guzman was arrested that same day, while the teen was arrested Tuesday.
Ortega and her mother were not the intended victims, police said. The girl was taken to Stroger Hospital where she later died. One of the purported gang members — a 29-year-old man — was also shot in the back as he attempted to flee, and a nearby vehicle was struck several times.
Foxx called Ortega’s murder “horrific” and said the 16-year-old will be charged as an adult “due to the nature of these offenses.” Both he and the Guzman are due in court for a bond hearing Thursday morning.
During Wednesday's press conference, Matt DeMateo, pastor of New Life Community Church in Little Village, read off a statement from Ortega’s mother, who said “words cannot describe the pain I am feeling.”
According to Ortega’s mother, she and her daughter were on their way to the bank Saturday and Ortega had asked to get a hamburger for lunch. Moments later, she was shot and killed.
“We came in search of the American Dream,” she said in her statement, “but instead I get to live a nightmare for the rest of my life.”
Ortega’s mother added that she has forgiven the shooter, saying he too was a victim
"As a 16-year-old, the community failed you, just like it failed my precious baby," she said.
An online fundraiser collecting money to help pay for funeral expenses in Ortega’s home town in Mexico has raised more than $72,000 as of Wednesday afternoon.
Because this was a gang-related shooting, Brown on Monday said the CPD would be flooding Little Village with additional police resources including specialized units and highly visible patrols in order to prevent any retaliatory violence.
On Wednesday, Brown said those efforts would continue as the department remains concerned about additional shootings.
“One of the gang members was struck by one of the bullets fired by the 16-year-old, so there is a high-degree of retaliation on our radar,” he said.
The press conference marked a rare joint public appearance for Lightfoot and Foxx after the pair traded barbs over the last year. In October, Lightfoot slammed Foxx for not filing criminal charges after a deadly West Side shootout. Foxx called the mayor’s criticism “inappropriate” and “wrong.”
But Foxx, Lightfoot and Brown all said their offices must improve their "unity" and work together to prevent further violence.
“I think you’ll see more opportunities from us to demonstrate a unity of purpose,” Lightfoot said. “We’re not gonna agree on every issue, but we do agree that violence has to be addressed in a holistic way and we’ve got to do everything we can to hold those who are responsible accountable.”