‘Please don’t let her die in vain.’ Family of 8-year-old killed in Little Village calls for justice

Melissa Ortega “was a girl full of hope and had her whole life ahead of her,” her family said. “She sought to achieve the American Dream but was instead given American Violence.”

SHARE ‘Please don’t let her die in vain.’ Family of 8-year-old killed in Little Village calls for justice
A candle with a photo of Melissa Ortega on its side at the memorial for 8-year-old Melissa Ortega at the corner of 26th Street and South Pulaski Road in Little Village, Monday Jan. 24, 2022. | Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

A candle with a photo of Melissa Ortega on its side at the memorial for 8-year-old Melissa Ortega at the corner of 26th Street and South Pulaski Road in Little Village, Monday Jan. 24, 2022.

Anthony Vázquez/Sun-Times

Melissa Ortega’s family is asking the public to come together and help bring to justice those responsible for gunning down the 8-year-old in Little Village over the weekend.

“We want to thank everyone for their condolences and prayers, however we wish people would come together and help us bring justice,” the family said in a statement. “Too often we hear news of shootings across Chicago, this continuous activity makes us habituated to these types of scenes.

“That is NOT something we should have to be accustomed to,” they added. “Please don’t let her die in vain. No more innocent kids should be killed. Mayor Lightfoot needs to make Chicago safe.”

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Melissa was walking with her mother on 26th Street near Pulaski Road Saturday afternoon when a gunman stepped from an alley and opened fire, striking the 8-year-old twice in the head, according to police.

A gang member who was the intended target was critically wounded.

In an interview with Despierta America Monday morning, Melissa’s mother Araceli Leanos called for the capture of the shooter, but also said she forgave the gunman for the pain they’ve inflicted.

“You took away the most beautiful thing, my reason for living, for whom I got up everyday and move forward,” Leanos said. “You took away a life full of dreams, you took away dreams from a marvelous girl.

“But from my heart I want to tell you that I forgive you because I know that one day, with the help of God, I will find peace,” she said. “But I know that you will not live well for the rest of your days.”

On Monday, Chicago police officials blamed the killing on a longstanding gang conflict, and said detectives were pursuing promising leads. They said patrols will be increased in the neighborhood to prevent retaliatory attacks.

Melissa and her mother had immigrated to the United States only six months ago. After spending some time in California they decided to come to Chicago, where most of their family lived, the family said in a statement.

Melissa wanted to learn English and experience snow in Chicago. She wanted to make Tik Tok dances with her friends and get a Build-A-Bear, the family said. On the day she was shot, Melissa was looking forward to a hamburger from McDonald’s after running errands with her mother.

“At age 8, she was a girl full of hope and had her whole life ahead of her,” her family said. “She sought to achieve the American Dream but was instead given American Violence.”

A GoFundMe set up to cover funeral expenses says Melissa will be buried in her hometown of Los Sauces in the Mexican state of Zacatecas. The online fundraiser has collected over $64,000, tripling its initial $20,000 goal.

“One of Melissa’s final wishes was to go back to Mexico, she missed her family and her hometown,” the family said. “We want safer neighborhoods, we want our kids to live long lives, we want authorities to patrol our area. And although we want Melissa back, we hope you will help us maintain her memory. “

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