CHICAGO (AP) — Outraged public and community leaders were offering a reward Thursday for information leading to the arrest of a suspect in the death of a 9-year-old, in what has almost become a ritual in Chicago.
Antonio Smith was shot at least twice and killed Wednesday afternoon, not far from where he lived in the Grand Crossing neighborhood on the city’s South Side.
The boy is the latest of at least 11 children under 18 years of age who have been shot to death this summer in Chicago, several of them by stray bullets. That number includes Shamiya Adams, 11, who was at a sleepover in July when a bullet fired during a shooting outside the home she was staying came through an open window and hit her in the head.
Antonio’s mother, Brandi Murry, said her son left home after she answered “no” when he asked for a cupcake. About an hour later, he was being taken to the University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital, with gunshots to the chest. Police responding to a report of shots fired found Antonio in the backyard of an apartment building.
When she arrived home and found Antonio gone, Murry said she called police to report him missing and they arrive five minutes later.
“They asked me to show a picture of him. Once I did that, they told me to come to the hospital,” she was quoted as saying on local media.
Activist priest Father Michael Pfleger of Chicago’s St. Sabina’s Roman Catholic Church gathered with neighborhood residents and others at the murder scene late Thursday.
“We should be as outraged about that as Michael Brown in Ferguson,” Pfleger said, referring to the protests in Ferguson, Missouri after the 18-year-old was fatally shot by a policeman earlier this month. “At the end of the day, another black child is dead. And whatever the excuse somebody may have done that for, unacceptable.”
He announced a $5,000 reward will be offered for information in the case. Other religious leaders have also added to the reward, bringing it to $13,000.
As of Thursday evening, police had no one in custody in the shooting, said spokesman Officer Thomas Sweeney.
Chicago police said a dispute between two factions of a street gang recently flared in the neighborhood, but they said they don’t have any indication the victim belonged to a gang.
Antonio’s parents said they know of no reason anyone would target their son.
Cousin Kenya Eggleston said the family was struggling to make sense of the shooting, adding, “he was just a child, just a baby, still had a whole life ahead of him.”