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‘She didn’t have to go like that’: Family of 12-year-old girl fatally shot in Hazel Crest gather for a vigil

The family of Erica Gibson want the gun owner to be held responsible in the apparent accidental shooting.

Family members embrace during a memorial and balloon release for 12-year-old Erica Gibson, Tuesday, May 11, 2021.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Dozens of loved ones gathered Tuesday evening on the Near North Side to remember Erica Gibson, a 12-year-old girl who was shot to death over the weekend in south suburban Hazel Crest.

Blue and purple balloons were released in front of the Cambridge Street row houses where much of the family lives. “She’s a dancing doll, and we’re going to continue to dance for her,” Erica’s aunt Samyra McDonald.

Erica’s closest cousin, Tykeena McDonald, 14, said the two were always dancing together and had been preparing for an upcoming competition.

“We both couldn’t wait,” Tykeena said. “Now I’m going to have to dance the competition without her, and I wish she could be there with me, just sitting on the bus with me. Hopefully, we win it for her.”

Tykeena and many of Erica’s family members have expressed frustration about the circumstances of the shooting.

“She didn’t have to go like that,” Tykeena said. “We could have still been here at my house or at her house just dancing and having fun together — now that’s all taken away because of a tragic accident.”

Family and community members gather on the Near North Side for a memorial and balloon release for 12-year-old Erica Gibson on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. Erica was shot and killed in Hazel Crest last weekend.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Family members said Erica was staying at a friend’s house when the shooting occurred Saturday night and believe the gun’s owner needs to be held responsible.

Earlier in the day, prosecutors and police released conflicting statements about whether there will be any charges in the fatal weekend shooting.

After days of silence on the shooting, Police Chief Mitchell Davis issued a statement Tuesday morning calling the death of Erica Gibson a “tragic accident” involving children playing with a gun.

“A legal review by the Cook County state’s attorney’s office determined no criminal charges will be filed against the juvenile involved,” Davis said. “The investigation shows this to be another case of young people having access to an unsecured weapon in a home that had a tragic accident.”

But less than three hours later, a spokesperson for the Cook County state’s attorney office said the details of the shooting had not been “formally presented” to the office on whether charges should be filed.

“We are currently reviewing the case to determine if the evidence supports any charges,” the statement said. “We cannot further comment on an ongoing investigation.”

The office would not elaborate and there was no further comment from the police chief.

Officers responded to a call of a reported gunshot victim in the 17600 block of Arlington Lane in Hazel Crest around 10 p.m. Saturday, according to police.

Erica, who was from the Gresham neighborhood in Chicago, had been shot in the head and was taken to South Suburban Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 10:53 p.m., police said.

An autopsy ruled her death a homicide, according to the medical examiner’s office.

Erica had a passion for dancing. Prior to being a lead dancer on the Lil’ Ladies of Virtue junior team, she was the captain of the peewee squad for four years, according to her coach, Kamile Beal.

Erica Gibson poses for a photo.
Provided

“Watching her dance brought excitement, I screamed her name and cheered her on,” Beal wrote in a message to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Beal described Erica as “silly” and “goofy” and said she was always laughing and joking with those around her.

“She will always be remembered for her excellent dance, energy and face,” Beal said. “She was so cheerful.”

This is at least the second accidental shooting by a minor in the last week.

A 12-year-old boy was critically wounded Thursday night on the South Side when he was accidentally shot by another child.

The boy was hit in the chest inside a home in the 3500 block of South Rhodes shortly before 7 p.m., Chicago police said. He was taken to Comer Children’s Hospital in critical condition, according to police and fire officials.