When 10-year-old La’Mya Sparks was shot in the back last fall, her 13-year-old friend Swaysee Rankin took off his shirt and applied pressure to her wound, staying with her until paramedics arrived.
Six months later, tragedy struck the friends again. This time it was Swaysee who was shot as he walked with his 14-year-old cousin Monday night in the South Chicago neighborhood, just a block from the earlier shooting.
“After we got the news, La’Mya ran through the house screaming, ‘Swaysee got shot!’” said the girl’s mother, Shawnta Williams.
Her daughter was one of the first people to check on Swaysee at the hospital, just like Swaysee had done for her every day. Swaysee’s family said he and his cousin were out of surgery Tuesday and were talking.
The teens were walking on a sidewalk in the 8200 block of South Coles Avenue around 9:30 p.m. when someone in a car fired shots, according to Chicago police. The car, possibly a red Jeep Cherokee, backed up south on Coles and sped off.
Swaysee’s mother, Ashley Jackson, told reporters outside Comer Children’s Hospital Tuesday that the shooting appeared to be random.
“My son is absolutely not gang-affiliated from my knowledge. It was a drive-by shooting, just something random,” she said. “He left out of one house and he was on the way to the next with a group of friends and somebody just pulled up and started shooting.”
Swaysee suffered gunshot wounds to the back and abdomen, while the 14-year-old was shot in the chest and abdomen, police said. They were both listed in critical condition when brought to the hospital.
Jackson said Tuesday evening that Swaysee was “alert” and being transferred out of the intensive care unit.
She credited police officers for rushing her son by squad car to Comer. “The police transported him in the police vehicle instead of waiting for EMS, which ultimately saved his life,” she said. “So I feel like my baby was a hero to somebody, and somebody returned the favor.
“Some people don’t make it outta this at all, and for them to be little boys, they’re strong, super strong, and it’s a blessing,” Jackson said.
Swaysee has not said much while in the hospital but did tell his family, “I can’t believe I got shot,” according to the boy’s stepfather, Wayne Looney.
“They were walking like regular little boys having fun outside,” he said as he waited with Jackson outside the hospital Tuesday afternoon.
The youngest victim this year, 22-month-old Kayden Swann, was moved out of the intensive care unit last week after he was struck in the temple during a road-rage shooting on Lake Shore Drive near Grant Park.
The number of shootings involving young children is still behind the pace of 2020, when 12 children 13 or younger had been shot over the same period.
La’Mya’s mother said her daughter is still traumatized by the shooting last October at Russell Square Park, and she worries about Swaysee. The two met at Powell Academy at 75th and South Shore and have remained close friends since, Williams said.
“They spent almost every day together at the park. They played, just being kids. You’d never think your kid playing at the park would lead to them getting shot. But that’s what ended up happening with La’Mya,” Williams said.
La’Mya was shot in the middle of her back as she ran from gunfire at the park’s tennis courts. She collapsed, got up and then fell again, according to a police report. That’s when Swaysee rushed to her, took off his shirt and pressed it on La’Mya’s wound until paramedics arrived, the report states.
La’Mya underwent two surgeries and still uses a feeding tube, Williams said.
“Physically, she’s getting there. But mentally, it’s going to take some time,” she said. “When she hears the gunshots, whether it’s during the day or night, she screams and hollers. She’s so traumatized by the sound of a gunshot.”
Williams said Swaysee was a “good ... man of a boy” who often checked in on La’Mya after she was shot. He recently supported La’Mya’s sale of chocolate-covered strawberries, coming over to buy a box and give hugs, Williams said.
“I don’t understand why this happened to him,” she said.
No one was in custody, police said.