7-year-old shooting victim mourned: 'There will be justice'

“Justice for Jai’Mani” and “justice for number seven” were among the rallying cries for the boy who was shot and killed Tuesday outside his home on the Near West Side. No one has been arrested.

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Mourners gather to remember 7-year-old Jai’Mani Amir Rivera on the Near West Side of Chicago | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Mourners embrace at a balloon release and vigil Wednesday for 7-year-old Jai’Mani Amir Rivera on West Jackson Boulevard near South Western Avenue. Jai’Mani was leaving his house Tuesday afternoon to visit a neighbor when he was shot in the chest. Police have increased patrols in the area.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

More than a hundred people gathered Wednesday to release balloons in memory of a 7-year-old boy who was shot and killed outside his home Tuesday afternoon on the Near West Side.

The crowd shouted “Justice for Jai’Mani” and “justice for number seven” as Chicago police officers were on scene in force.

Shots were fired from outside the gates of an apartment complex in the 2300 block of West Jackson Boulevard about 3 p.m. Tuesday, just as Jai’Mani Amir Rivera had reached the sidewalk in front of the building on his way to visit a neighbor, police Supt. Larry Snelling said.

Officers responding to the call found the child with a chest wound. They applied pressure to his wound and rushed him to Stroger Hospital in their squad car. He was pronounced dead shortly after arriving, police and the Cook County medical examiner’s office said.

No arrests have been made, though Snelling said patrols in the area had been increased. Sources tell the Sun-Times that an assault-style rifle may have been used in the attack, and an officer reported at least 11 shell casings were found at the scene.

Jai’Mani’s aunt, Vanessa Rivera, said Jai’Mani was an “outgoing” kid who had just received his jersey for the upcoming football season, and had even managed to land the number he wanted: seven.

“He was more than a nephew to me,” Rivera said. “We lost my nephew, a 7-year-old kid. … All I ask for is justice.”

The family has set up a GoFundMe to help cover costs, which had raised more than $15,000 of the $50,000 goal by midday Thursday.

The event was in part organized by Shawn Childs, founder of No Kids Die in the Chi.

Saleshea Peterson, founder of advocacy group Hug A Child Make A Change and a member of social services agency UCAN Chicago, said there was a $15,000 reward for information leading to the identification of a suspect and the weapon used in the shooting.

Community activist Andrew Holmes, who also spoke at the event, added an additional $1,000 to the reward and called on those in the surrounding area to search security camera video for evidence that could aid investigators.

“It ain’t about the money, it’s about catching the individual — and if you know who that individual is, you need to put his picture out there,” Holmes said. “This is about the second or third child in this area. … These families are living in fear over here.”

Added Peterson: “There will be justice for Jai’Mani.”

Mourners gather for a balloon release and vigil for 7-year-old Jai’Mani Amir Rivera on West Jackson Boulevard near South Western Avenue, about 24 hours after the boy was shot to death on the sidewalk outside a nearby apartment complex on the Near West Side, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Jai’Mani Amir Rivera had recently gotten his lucky number 7 on his football jersey for fall.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Three weeks prior and about a block away, 5-year-old Reign Ware was leaving a family party with her father when she was shot and killed by someone firing from a black Jeep.

Snelling said 172 juveniles were the victims of gun violence this year. Jai’Mani is the eighth child age 15 or younger to have been shot to death this year, according to Sun-Times homicide data.

At least 72 people were shot Father’s Day weekend, including a 15-year-old girl in a mass shooting in Humboldt Park. A 14-year-old girl was also among three shot along the lakefront in Jackson Park on Monday, and a 14-year-old boy was shot at Columbus Park in Austin on Tuesday night.

“It’s unfortunate that a mother and a father, who are doing what they are supposed to do for their 7-year-old and raising their child, that their child can’t even walk out to the sidewalk without being struck by random gunfire,” Snelling said at a news conference Tuesday.

Contributing: Cindy Hernandez and Kade Heather

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