Suspect in custody in toddler's death

April 22, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Cynia Cole was with her family in a car in the 600-block of East 92nd Place in the Burnside neighborhood at about 11:00 p.m. Wednesday night when she was struck by a bullet.

She was taken to Comer's Children's Hospital in critical condition and treated for severe brain injuries. She was pronounced dead just before noon Thursday.

Police believe the girl's 25-year-old father, who police say is a gang member, was the intended target. His family denies he is involved in gang activity.

Police said the alleged gunman turned himself in to officers around 3:15 p.m. Thursday. He has not been identified. Cynia's family had asked for the community for help in finding the killer.

The gunman was accompanied to Area 2 Police Headquarters by the Rev. James Meeks, a state senator. Meeks said he received a phone call at about 12:30 p.m. from the suspect's mother.

"I immediately called [Chicago Police] Superintendent Jody Weis and told him the young man they were looking for wanted to turn himself in," said Rev. Meeks. "He had one of his first deputies call me and I started working with Officer Jackson in trying to facilitate how we could have a successful transfer or turnover of the young man."

Meeks walked into the police station with the suspect and his mother Thursday afternoon. The mother walked upstairs with her son and then said goodbye to him.

Cynia, who was also called Cocoa by her family, was shot in the head while sitting in the back seat of a car with her two sisters.

"This is like taking the heart out of me. They took my heart," said Cocoa's grandmother, Cynthia Lyons.

Police say the shooter fired several shots into the car, but no one else was injured.

"He took an innocent baby from us, and right now we're glad that the assailant is caught, if it's him," said Karen Lyons, Cocoa's Aunt. "We want justice at this point.

Activists had offered a $1,500 reward.

"For someone to come out like a terrorist and unload on this car, that child didn't know when to duck or when to do anything to anybody," said community activist Andrew Holmes.

People in the neighborhood say the shooting may have been retaliation for another incident on Wednesday. They are trying to find out if there is any connection between the shootings.

"It is retaliation about, you know, somebody got killed at 95th and King Drive. It is never going to stop now," said neighbor Brian White.

"Watching a 2-year-old's frail body just fade away - it's senseless and I'm tired of it," said Jovan Haynes, Cocoa's godmother. "Too many bodies are dropping every day, but this is a child - a child. My goddaughter."

The toddler had been known as a feisty little girl who was always in charge - even in church.

"She took over the Sunday School class one Sunday... with her smile and everything else she does," said Rev. Jasper Edwards, the Lyons' family pastor.

"Cocoa was a very demanding child. She liked to tell you what to do. But she was also sweet about it," said Cynthia Lyons.

The Lyons family left the hospital around 4:30 p.m. and said they would go to Area 2 Police Headquarters where the suspect is in being processed. So far, no official charges have been filed against him.

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