Nine-year-old Antonio Smith was gunned down on a concrete slab a few feet away from the railroad tracks that have long served as the dividing line between rival gangs in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood known as Pocket Town.
How a fourth-grader who played peewee football and loved to dance to Chris Brown songs ended up there with fatal bullet wounds in his chest, back and hand is not clear.
But the tragic murder of another child in the city has left a community mourning, parents seeking answers, and a nation once again wondering what's going on in Chicago.
“He just didn't make it,” Brandi Murry, said Thursday at her home, a few blocks from where her son was fatally shot a day earlier. “I'm praying for the whole city right now. I don't want no other parent to ever go through this. I feel your pain. It's bad, and it hurts so much.”
Law enforcement sources said a dispute between two factions of the Gangster Disciples — one dubbed Pocket Town and another Sircon City — recently flared up in the neighborhood. Police said Antonio was not in a gang, but would not rule out the possibility that he might have been the intended target. Police were still looking into how he ended up behind the apartment building in the 1200 block of East 71st Street.
At least four spent shell casings were found in the yard near where Antonio was shot, suggesting that the gunman likely opened fire from inside the yard, a law enforcement source said.
As of Thursday night, there had been no arrests, and no description of a suspect had been released.
Some residents guessed that Antonio, who moved to the neighborhood from Englewood with his mother only a few months ago, might not have known about the gang boundaries and could simply have been in the wrong place when gunfire erupted.
Murry, 34, could not bring herself to walk into the backyard where her son was found.
“I wanted to know where he took his last breath,” Murry said. “I am numb.”
Antonio lived with his mother, 13-year-old sister and an older brother in an apartment in the 1100 block of east 73rd Street. According to Murry, Antonio had run out of the house not long before the shooting. “I know he was a little upset with me. He was in trouble. He asked me for something, and I told him no,” she said.
She began looking for him on the way home from work because “I didn't want my son to go outside like that. He was never outside like that.” When she got home from work, officers were waiting for her, she said. She showed them a picture of her son, and they told her he was at Comer Children's Hospital, where he died an hour after being shot.
Antonio's stepfather Kawada Hodges, 39, led reporters to the backyard and pointed to the spot where he was told his son had been shot. Hodges said he believed that his stepson had been walking near the viaduct when gunfire rang out. The boy, he thinks, started running and the space between the houses leading to the backyard was the first escape he saw.
My close family call me Mimi, you will too. A 53 year old black female with many thoughts and opinions. I am vocal and passionate. I was raised old school and am proud to know most children that I had any influence over are carrying on the right way. 'Please, Thank You, Yes Ma'am, No Sir'. Divorced a couple times and no children of my own. I have lived a full and diverse life. Well educated and very liberal a Baptist raised in the church. I hope my posts, information, and opinions in my blog inspire you to open up a conversation. Pass along the usually hidden unheard of and unknown facts of how life is being lived today. Welcome to my thoughts....