$13K reward offered in shooting death of Antonio Smith, 9, shot twice in chest

The parents of Antonio Smith are calling for an end to the violence that claimed the life of their 9-year-old son.
On Thursday night, a community poured out its heart at the spot where a 9-year-old was left alone to die.

Antonio Smith, 9, was shot two times in the chest behind an apartment building in the Grand Crossing neighborhood. His parents are pleading for their son's killer to turn himself in.

"I love my city, but the city took something from me that I love even more. And that was my son. That was my little guy right there," said Kawada Hodges, Antonio's stepfather.

Antonio's relatives, still reeling from his death, were joined by dozens of others- some as young as Antonio- in the very backyard where he was shot several times, with at least two of the bullets hitting him in the chest.

"My baby, he was a good kid. He was a mama's boy. He stayed up under me. He called me every day. I'm at work, 'Mama, I love you. Mama, can I have this. Mama, can I have that,'" mother Brandi Murry said. "My boy, he was just an angel."

Antonio would have started fourth-grade at Hinton Elementary in about two weeks. He had just started playing Pee Wee football, and rode on a float in the Bud Billiken Parade.

"We just got him a football. We just put him in football," Hodges said. Pointing to a picture of Antonio in his football jersey, Hodges said, "Nine years old. You took that. You all see that? You all hurt me."

The boy was found fatally shot near Kimbark and 71st Street on Wednesday afternoon. He was pronounced dead at University of Chicago's Comer Children's Hospital about an hour later.

One of the bullets struck Antonio's heart, his mother said. He had been hit in the chest, arms and hands.

Antonio and his family had just moved to an apartment about three blocks from the shooting. Murry believes he may have been headed to see a friend or family member when he was gunned down. When she got back from work and found Antonio was not home, she called police to report him missing, she said.

"We called the police. I said, I want to report him missing. Maybe five minutes later, the police came to the house. They asked me to show a picture of him. Once I did that, they told me to come to the hospital," Murry said.

"This was not just a murder. This was an execution," community activist Andrew Holmes said.

Chicago police said a dispute between two factions of the Gangster Disciples recently flared in the neighborhood, but they don't believe Antonio belonged to a gang. His parents said they know of no reason anyone would target their son.

Activist Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina's Church is asking for people to gather at the murder scene at 6 p.m. to "express your outrage at the killing."

"We should be as outraged about that as Michael Brown in Ferguson," Pfleger said. "At the end of the day, another black child is dead. And whatever the excuse somebody may have done that for, unacceptable."

He announced on Twitter that a $5,000 reward will be offered for information in the case leading to an arrest, and Pastor Corey Brooks of New Beginnings Church said he will match that reward. Other religious leaders have also added to the reward, bringing it to $13,500.

No one is in custody in the murder and police have not released a description of any suspect. If you have any information, you're asked to call Area Central Police.

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