CHICAGO (WLS) --A senior at Oak Park & River Forest High School was fatally shot on Chicago's West Side, relatives said. He would have celebrated his 17th birthday on Wednesday.
The victim, identified as Elijah Sims, was hanging out with friends near West Quincy Street and South Lotus Avenue in the city's South Austin neighborhood Monday night, not far from where he grew up. Police said bullets started flying around 10:10 p.m.
"He was just outside being a little boy. He liked to laugh, play, joke, fight with his cousins," said Sims' aunt, who wanted to be identified only as Wanda.
Sims was shot in the head. He was rushed to Stroger Hospital in critical condition. Wanda said Tuesday that he suffered a catastrophic brain injury and died in the intensive care unit.
"Tomorrow would have been his birthday and they just took him away from us. It hurts. It hurts," Wanda said, sobbing. "Put the guns down. I wish he could come back to me."
There are few words amid the grief at Oak Park River Forest High School as the community grieves.
"Very hard. I mean, everybody was sad," said Hannah, a student, through her tears.
Sims was popular at his school, and his friends and fellow students are shocked by the news of his death.
"There's like no words. I just can't believe that happened to him," said his classmate Riley.
A 15-year-old boy who was with Sims was shot in the back, police said. He was also transported to Stroger, where his condition stabilized.
Investigators said neither victim appeared to be the shooter's intended target. No one is in custody.
Meanwhile, those who knew Sims struggle with an unimaginable loss.
"I'm devastated because he helped me a lot. There were some kinds who bullied me and he, he would help me and he would make them back off," said his classmate Nicholas.
School officials refused to comment, but the school's principal sent home a letter to parents about the fatal shooting that read in part, "It is with a heavy hart that I write this message to you today... We have now confirmed that the student involved has passed away."
Now his friends and classmates are remembering him as someone who loved music and was a valued friend. Some community leaders remain outraged over the violence and are encouraging residents to take back their streets.
"You cannot police self-hatred. And clearly people get irritated when community leaders like myself make statements like that, but time is out for coddling criminals," said Rev. Ira Acree.
A vigil is planned to remember Sims at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Scoville Park.