Eighth grader dies after basketball game shooting

April 17, 2009 (CHICAGO) Juan Cazares, 14, and his cousin were shot Thursday night following a basketball game near Cornell Square Park in the South Side's Back of the Yards neighborhood.

Cazares is the 33rd CPS student to die as a result of violence this school year. His cousin was still in the hospital.

Juan Cazares' friends and family said he was never in any trouble, and in fact, police said it was not clear that he was the intended target of the shooting.

Friday, the teen's family was calling for justice and for anyone with information to please come forward.

Cornell Square Park is just two blocks from Juan Cazares' home. It is the place where he spent most of his afternoons.

"He's up there every day playing basketball, him and all of his relatives. They're up there every day," said Pierre Washington, the victim's friend.

The park was blanketed Friday by police looking for evidence in the shooting because, unfortunately, in addition to hosting the daily basketball games, Cornell has also become known for being the hangout of quite a few Back of the Yards gang members.

"I used to warn him all the time not to go there because of the gangs," said Angela Barajas, the victim's mother. "But he played every day with the boys from the school next door."

It was just after 6:30 p.m. Thursday that Angela Barajas found out her son had been shot. Witnesses to the incident say that another teenager passed by the park flashing gang signs at the 14-year-old and the group he was with. Someone threw a basketball in response. It was Juan and a couple of other kids, including his cousin 14-year-old Oscar Soto, who went to retrieve the ball just around the corner from the park.

"When they turned to the alley, that's when the dude cocked the gun and started shooting at them, and everyone started running after that," said a witness who identified himself as Deonte.

Juan's cousin was only grazed by one of the bullets, but Juan was shot multiple times. He died a few hours later at the hospital.

"I don't understand why they had to do this to kids. It's too much for us. They don't think of the pain for my sister, for my family," said the victim's aunt Angelina Gallegos.

An eighth grader at Richard Milburn, Juan had just transferred from Daley Elementary Acadamy in January. His principal said Friday that Juan was well-liked for his sense of humor and that his classmates were writing letters and drawing pictures to give to his family.

Crisis counselors were on hand at Milburn Friday.

Police tell ABC7 Chicago that no arrests have been made and that the shooting is still under investigation.

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