How did 16-year-old accused of killing Melissa Ortega, 8, get probation for 3 armed carjackings?

The juvenile courts shouldn’t have left Emilio Corripio, a self-proclaimed gang member, free to ride around with a 27-year-old ‘friend’ aiming for rival gang members.

SHARE How did 16-year-old accused of killing Melissa Ortega, 8, get probation for 3 armed carjackings?
Melissa Ortega, 8, was killed when she was struck by two stray bullets last weekend in Little Village.

Melissa Ortega, 8, was killed when she was struck by two stray bullets last weekend in Little Village.

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Something has gone awry with our criminal justice system as it pertains to juvenile offenders.

The latest evidence of our broken system is the shooting death last weekend of 8-year-old Melissa Ortega of Little Village.

Emilio Corripio, 16, is charged with opening fire on busy 26th Street and killing her. It isn’t the first time the teenager accused in this shooting has been charged with using an illegally obtained weapon to commit a crime.

At the time police say Corripio stepped out from an alley and turned a peaceful street into a shooting gallery, he was on probation for three armed carjackings in the past year.

On the day Melissa was killed, the self-proclaimed Latin Kings gang member was targeting rival gang members, according to the police, and hit one of those rivals in the back, leaving him hospitalized in critical condition.

But two bullets struck Melissa in the head as she ran alongside her mother, trying to escape the gunfire. The 8-year-old died hours later.

Stray bullets have come flying through windows, across playgrounds and into cars in Chicago and killed children much younger than Melissa.

Last September, 4-year-old Mychal “M.J” Moultry Jr. was killed when shots from out on the street in Woodlawn tore through a front window of a home where the boy was getting his hair braided.

But what is so frustrating about what happened in Little Village is this could have been avoided if the shooter’s previous gun crimes had been treated more seriously.

Corripio could have and should have been stopped by the court system before this. The police arrested the teenager for three carjackings in the past year in which he used a gun. One time, he hit the victim in the face with a firearm equipped with a laser sight, according to the police.

But in October, the teenager “pleaded to be delinquent in exchange for one of the cases being lowered to possession of a stolen vehicle,” the Sun-Times has reported.

He was sentenced to three years of probation.

That deal contributed to the tragedy of Melissa’s death.

Yet, in the wake of this shocking failure to hold criminals accountable, Chief Cook County Circuit Judge Timothy Evans is defending the juvenile court system. According to Evans, its job “is to try to rehabilitate that juvenile, to stop him or her from doing whatever the negative thing is.”

Whatever “rehabilitation” supposedly is taking place, it has not deterred misguided teenagers from committing serious crimes.

In January, the Chicago Police Department arrested at least five juveniles in cases involving guns. A 16-year-old was charged with robbing a 59-year-old at gunpoint. A 15-year-old was charged with taking a vehicle at gunpoint from a 36-year-old woman. That same teen was identified in an armed carjacking of a 52-year-old woman last November. Another 15-year-old was charged with taking a car at gunpoint from a 66-year-old man. And two young men, ages 16 and 17, were charged with forcing a 33-year-old woman out of her car at gunpoint.

Any of those crimes could have turned deadly.

With his criminal background, Corripio shouldn’t have been free to ride around with a 27-year-old “friend” aiming for rival gang members.

That friend — identified by the police as the getaway driver, Xavier Guzman — also has been charged with murder, attempted murder and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon in connection with Melissa’s death.

A memorial for 8-year-old Melissa Ortega in Little Village.

A memorial for 8-year-old Melissa Ortega in Little Village.

Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times

This shooting fits what many of us have heard about gang shootings and carjackings. Older gang members recruit juveniles to shoot because they know if children are caught, the legal system will go easy on them.

Corripio shouldn’t have been on the street that day.

He should have been in juvenile detention, where he could be “rehabilitated” without being a threat to others.

That’s just common sense.

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