Damia Smith, 5th to die after Chicago to Evanston shooting rampage, remembered as 'foundation' of family

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Damia Smith, 15, fought for her life 24 days in the hospital, but died Tuesday, becoming the fifth victim of a Jan. 9 shooting rampage.

"She was happy, vibrant, friendly. She loved life, she really enjoyed life," said Tiffany Hammond, Damia's mother. "She was a typical teen too. She loved to sleep in."

The mother and daughter were in a vehicle together headed southbound on South Halsted Street near West 93rd Street when police say gunman Jason Nightengale went on a random shooting rampage from the Far South Side to Evanston. Police say he shot seven people before Evanston police killed him. Smith is the fifth to die.

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When asked about that afternoon, Hammond couldn't speak. She shook her head, the thoughts too disturbing to discuss. "It was unfortunate. It was just random," the mother said.

Hammond said the car was towed, and evidence photos were take after the shooting. But now she's frustrated because "someone stole Damia's purse" from the family's towed vehicle.

"I don't care about her bank card. I already cancelled it," the mother said. "I just want her ID, and the stuff to remember her."

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The family shared pictures of Damia with a bright, broad smile across her face, from childhood to her teenage years. Damia would have turned "Sweet 16," as her cousin said, on May 9.

"She is everything to this family and we just allowed her to have her way. We love her," said Erica Howard, Damia's cousin. "It's because she's a good kid.

"She is our foundation," Howard said. "This will absolutely shift the dynamics of lives. We are broken."

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Damia was a sophomore at Morgan Park High School. The school's principal sent a letter to the school community, saying in part, "Our thoughts are with Damia's family during this difficult time. This loss is sure to raise many emotions, concerns, and questions for the entire school, especially our students....We are saddened by this loss and will do everything we can to help you and your child."

For Damia's family, violence in Chicago is a story they have heard too many times. Now the violence has impacted their own loved ones.

"Unfortunately we live in a city where this is common," said Howard, adding "but the people who have reached out with kind words. We're overwhelmed and grateful."

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Howard said strangers have reached out on the family's Go Fund Me page for Damia's medical expenses. She said the family appreciates all the support, even as they now have to plan her funeral too.

"She will always be remembered," Howard said, "and she will be laid to rest exactly how she deserves to be."
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