China Marie Lyons-Upshaw had plans to go to prom next week and graduate from high school before the end of the month.

China Marie Lyons-Upshaw | Facebook

The 17-year-old girl was shot in the chest at 9:02 p.m. Saturday inside an apartment in the 800 block of East 49th Street, according to Chicago Police. Witnesses told investigators that a man was “playing with a handgun” when it “fell to the ground and discharged.”

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi on Sunday offered additional details.

“The two were in the girl’s bedroom when family members heard a single gunshot and this man walked out holding the gun and he made some statements implicating himself to family members,” Guglielmi said.

Lyons-Upshaw, who lived in the 8500 block of South Laflin, was pronounced dead at the scene, police and the Cook County medical examiner’s office said.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The man ran away after the shooting and was not in custody Sunday. Police know who he is and are searching for him. Area Central detectives were conducting a homicide investigation.

“Whether it was accidental or domestic, it’s unclear, we haven’t been able to interview the offender,” Guglielmi said.

“She had a winning smile,” said Robert Hood, 42, of Washington Park, who identified himself as Lyons-Upshaw’s uncle. “She was a good kid, it’s definitely going to be hard not seeing her around.”

Hood was one of more than two dozen people gathered for hours outside the multi-unit building as police investigated in a second-floor apartment.

“She was great,” he said. “You see a child grow up to be loving, she came from a family with loving values.”

Hood added that his sister’s daughter, who loved shopping, got good grades at the Woodlawn campus of University of Chicago Charter Schools and had plans to travel out of state for college.

Among the dozens of family members and friends gathered in the alley early Saturday, several people were crying, wailing and collapsing from grief.

Hood said he had last spoken with Lyons-Upshaw “a couple of days ago” about prom.

“She was definitely a fashion diva for a young lady,” Hood said. “She’s just a lovable person.”

Maria De La Guardia/Sun-Times

Anti-violence activist Andrew Holmes called on the shooter to turn himself in and talk to the detectives.

“It’s just Memorial Day [weekend], but it’s just a typical day where we lose the lives of our children and our teenagers, and also our adults,” he said. “People with their hands on guns… We gotta get rid of the hatred and get back to loving and caring about our life and our children, our teenagers, and the city.”

Hood said his “close-knit” family had never before been affected by gun violence on this level.

“We gotta go through life without my niece, a daughter, a cousin, a friend,” he said. “It’s just hard, it’s definitely hard.”

Contributing: Taylor Hartz

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