Portage Park community shaken by ‘heartbreaking’ shooting death of 9-year-old girl

Residents say they’ve become more worried about their children’s safety since Saturday night’s shooting of Serabi Medina. A neighbor has been charged in what prosecutors say was her deliberate slaying.

SHARE Portage Park community shaken by ‘heartbreaking’ shooting death of 9-year-old girl
A memorial for Serabi Medina at the scene where she was shot and killed on the 3500 block of N. Long Avenue in Portage Park.

Well-wishers leave balloons, stuffed animals, candles and notes in memory of Serabi Medina outside the family home in Portage Park on Wednesday.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

When Maria Rodriguez would drop off her 9-year-old at Reinberg Elementary School, one of her classmates would be there to greet her daughter with a big hug and a wide smile.

That classmate was Serabi Medina, who on Saturday night was fatally shot, police say, by a neighbor while eating ice cream with her dad at their Portage Park apartment building.

“She would always make both of us laugh. They would always play in the park,” Rodriguez said. “She was such a sweet girl, a sweet girl, funny.”

Rodriguez and other members of the community are shaken since the incident, trying to understand why someone would target a young girl, and worried about the safety of their own children.

Serabi Medina

Serabi Medina

Provided

“I cried so hard, so hard. I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t know how to tell her,” Rodriguez said, pointing to her daughter. Both girls were excited to start the fourth grade in a couple of weeks. “It’s heartbreaking,” she said.

Cook County prosecutors said in court Tuesday that Michael Goodman walked out of his apartment building in the 3500 block of North Long Avenue with a gun and headed straight toward Serabi, who was in the vestibule of her building after buying ice cream for her dad and herself.

The father shouted at Goodman, but Goodman ignored him, allegedly raising his arm, firing his gun and striking Serabi in her head. The father tackled Goodman, causing the gun to go off again. Goodman suffered a bullet wound to his eye, prosecutors said. Serabi was taken to Stroger Hospital where she died.

Goodman, 43, was arrested, charged with first-degree murder and ordered held without bail.

Goodman wasn’t known to police and had no clear links to Serabi, according to a law enforcement source.

Officers found a large amount of drugs in his home, the source said. Investigators said they believed he may have been using methamphetamine or synthetic stimulants, also known as bath salts, and his drug use may have affected his mental state.

Details on a possible motive for the attack weren’t released, but neighbors on the block told the Sun-Times that Goodman had complained of kids being too loud in the past. They said they tried to avoid him.

Bart Chari Serabi Medina Portage Park

Bart Chari, who lives nearby, stands Wednesday at a memorial for Serabi Medina at the site where she was fatally shot in Portage Park.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Another neighbor, who asked not to be named, said Wednesday that she would occasionally see Goodman out on walks in the neighborhood.

“Something about him was off, there was like a bad vibe coming from him,” the 28-year-old said. “He stared at me once or maybe twice, with this disgust on his face. A lot of people said they would try to avoid him at all costs.”

This is the second time in five years that tragedy has touched the family. Serabi’s mother was shot to death in 2018. Blanca Miranda was in the 5100 block of West Thomas Street in Austin when she was also shot in her head. Police say no one has been arrested in Miranda’s slaying.

The community has come together in support of the family since the shooting. Dozens attended a balloon release and vigil for Serabi, affectionately known as “B.B.,” this week. An online fundraiser organized to help cover funeral expenses has raised nearly $40,000.

A memorial for Serabi at the scene of the shooting has grown from a few flowers and stuffed animals to piles of photos, candles, bouquets, messages, balloons and other offerings.

Serabi Medina

Serabi Medina

Provided

“Hopefully you’re in a fun place in heaven,” reads one message that appears to have been written by one of Serabi’s friends. “I hope you’re having fun up there.”

Rodriguez and her family — who live a few doors down from where the shooting occurred — dropped off flowers and other items at the memorial Wednesday. She said the incident has made her reluctant to let her children play outside, and she thinks twice about her neighbors.

“You don’t know if there is more people like him around here,” said Rodriguez, referring to the alleged shooter. “For me to take [my children] out again, I don’t know. It’s not comfortable anymore.”

Diana Zeitner, a staff member at Reinberg Elementary, said she remembers seeing Serabi walking in the halls.

“She used to make bracelets for the kids at school,” Zeitner said, adding that Serabi was always smiling and upbeat.

note memorial Serabi Medina Chicago

A note at a memorial to Serabi Medina reads, in part, “Bebe I’m happy you’re in heaven with your mom.”

Emmanuel Camarillo/Sun-Times

She has also become more concerned for her children’s safety in the neighborhood since Serabi’s slaying.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen with people out there, what’s their trigger,” Zeitner said. “Kids can’t even play. Now when my kids are outside and being noisy, I tell them, ‘You guys, quiet.’”

Bart Chari, who lives down the block from where the shooting happened, would often see Serabi playing in nearby Chopin Park.

“Just like a normal kid, just having fun,” said Chari, who has a 9-year-old daughter. “It makes you worry. She was going to fourth grade, just like my daughter, and sadly she never made it. It’s a sad story. She was just enjoying ice cream and having a good time, and she lost her life.”

balloon Serabi Medina memorial

A note on a balloon for Serabi Medina.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Contributing: Tom Schuba

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