Two people were shot, one critically, near Benito Juarez Community Academy in Pilsen about an hour before students were released for the day Thursday afternoon.
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A 16-year-old boy and a 34-year-old woman were in the 2100 block of South Ashland Avenue when someone approached and opened fire about 12:10 p.m, Chicago police said.
The woman was hit in the neck and taken to Stroger Hospital in critical condition, police said. The teen was shot in the leg and was in good condition at the hospital.
The 16-year-old boy is a student at Benito Juarez Community Academy, though he was not participating in any programs Thursday, said Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez, whose 25th Ward includes the area where the shooting happened.
Sigcho-Lopez said he was told by police officials that there was a fight in the area when a vehicle driving along Ashland Avenue stopped, and individuals in that vehicle started shooting. He did not know if the teen was a bystander or had been involved in the fight.
About an hour after the shooting, cars lined up as students were released from the school. Groups of students huddled together near the bus stops on Cermak.
According to witnesses, gunfire erupted after two women were seen fighting outside the school and a car pulled up near Ashland Avenue and Cermak.
“Kill that (expletive),” a man was heard shouting. Another witness heard someone say, “Shoot her.”
A woman who had been waiting for the bus said she ran south on Ashland when the car pulled up next to the school’s outdoor space.
“I started running,” said the woman, 50, who did not want her name used. “When I heard the first shot, I looked back and I saw her fall to the ground.”
Another woman, 40, said she was walking near the area when she saw the car pull up and heard someone say, “Shoot her.”
“I just froze,” she said. “I don’t remember anything.”
The women, who were interviewed separately, both said someone attempted to perform CPR on the woman until paramedics arrived. The car involved in the shooting took off, according to the witnesses.
The 50-year-old woman said she asked if the woman who had been shot would make it. She was told they had found a heartbeat. “They said it ain’t looking good,” she said.
A mother and daughter waited near the scene of the shooting. The mother had come to pick up the 14-year-old from school. She was participating in a program for freshman and sophomore students.
“It’s ugly because there are children who come here alone,” the mother said in Spanish. The mother asked not to be identified.
Patricia Dominguez, 69, of Pilsen, walked her dog Tsipeni not far from the scene. She didn’t see the shooting, but she said it broke her heart to hear about it.
“Of course with the gentrification, it’s changing but we are still reminded that this is the barrio and sometimes they don’t let us forget that,” Dominguez said.
Dominguez, who is an artist and author of children’s books, said more arts and sports programs for children are needed to help curb violence in Chicago. She said that’s why she sponsors Benito Juarez’s girls soccer team.
“That’s what I feel is going to really, really help,” Dominguez said.
Sigcho-Lopez said Thursday that the strategies the city has been using to tackle violence aren’t working or are misguided. He said there needs to be more investment in social services that provides mental health programs for teens along with more arts programs. He also said more funding needs to allocated toward street outreach efforts.
“The issue here is we don’t have funding or support from the city,” Sigcho-Lopez said.
He said Mayor Lori Lightfoot needs to move quicker to disperse the $1.9 billion in coronavirus relief funds the city is expected to receive to address the root causes of violence.
“It’s an emergency,” Sigcho-Lopez said. “I don’t know what else needs to happen for the mayor to listen to the community.”
Elvia Malagón’s reporting on social justice and income inequality is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.