Austin shootings kill 2 teens blocks apart in separate incidents

Ashley Hardmon (left) and Damani Henard (right).
July 3, 2013 4:51:16 PM PDT
Loved ones were coping Wednesday with the loss of two teenagers who were killed by gunfire blocks apart on Chicago's West Side in the Austin neighborhood.

One victim was a young woman hopeful for a future career, while the other victim had just graduated eighth grade and was looking forward to high school.

In the first shooting, a gunman fired into a crowd of young people, striking Ashley Hardmon, 19, in the head in the 4800-block of West Potomac Tuesday night. Hardmon died at Stroger Hospital. Friends say Hardmon was standing with friends when someone starting shooting into the group.

"At this stage in my life, I never thought I would bury one of my kids. I just can't imagine... I still don't believe it's real," Ashley's mother Tiffany Hardmon said tearfully. "When we got here, she was face down, and she was lifeless, and I knew she wasn't going make it."

"I am very angry. My love for God won't let me hate them, but they need to pay for what they did," said Tiffany Hardmon.

Chicago police say Hardmon was hit after several shooters approached a home and opened fire just after 9:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Hardmon was a graduate of Austin Business Academy and was training to work at a pharmacy through the Job Corps program. She was supposed to finish that program next month. She was back home in her Austin neighborhood for summer break.

"People are willing to cause entire families great distress over what?" said neighbor Amelia DePrez. "She was caught in the crossfire. She didn't do anything to anybody. She didn't deserve this."

"My baby was sweet spirit. She was smart, very smart. She just gradudated high school last year," Tiffany Hardmon said.

Neighbors say tensions have been escalating between two rival gangs in the area and that children were playing nearby at the time of the shooting.

While police were collecting evidence at the scene, a 14-year-old boy was found dead lying in the street near his bicycle in the 5000-block of West North Avenue, near North and Lawler. He had been shot to death.

The boy was identified as Damani Henard. He was believed to be riding his bike home.

"He was approached by a gunman. He was shot once in the back of his head and once in his back, and we're going to the morgue now to identify his body," aunt Keshia Paige told ABC7 Chicago.

Relatives say Henard was looking forward to starting high school. He was going to be a freshman at Oak Park and River Forest High School.

"He was getting ready to play high school football. We went school shopping. He has clothes he'll never be able to wear," said Paige.

"One person's dead the next block, and there's shooting right on the next block," she said. "It's crazy. I don't understand this."

"My concern... it's terrible," said neighbor Milton Griffin. "I mean, it's bad, and they need to do something. They need to start making an example."

There was no immediate word on whether the shootings were connected.

No one was in custody in either case.

Chicago police Area North detectives say they are investigating.

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