13 wounded in Back of the Yards shooting | Mother pleads for park gunman to turn himself in

September 20, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Shots rang out near the basketball court shortly after 10 p.m. on Thursday night. It is presumed there was an intended target in this gang-saturated area, but clearly it did not matter to the gunman who was hit. Police say they are looking for one gunman, possibly two, and that a lot of information is coming from the community. However, no arrests have been made yet.

"This person should have been in custody last night, because someone, somehow, knew that they were going to shoot these people ahead of time, and those people need to speak up," said Andrew Holmes, community activist.

A source told ABC7's Jessica D'Onofrio on Friday morning that police were speaking to a person of interest. Chicago Police would not confirm that, instead saying that they are talking to many people in what they say is a gang-related shooting.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel visited with victims on Friday and made his first public comments on the shooting Friday evening at New Beginnings Church in Woodlawn. Earlier on Friday, Chicago Police Department Supt. Garry McCarthy held a press conference on the shooting.

"It's a miracle that in this instance there have been no fatalities based upon the lethality of the weaponry used at this scene," Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said. The shooting that occurred near Cornell Square Park, located at 51st and Wood in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, around 10 p.m. on Thursday.

At least 16 shots were fired. 7.62 millimeter rounds. Police can't say what type of weapon was used, though some witnesses at the scene tell us they believe it was an AK-47.

Elvis Reyes lives directly across the street from the park and had just gone inside when the shooting started. He said this is a neighborhood with numerous warring gangs where hearing gunfire is not unusual.

"We hear it every week, every three days, every four days, we hear that somebody was killed. But nothing like that," said Elvis Reyes, neighborhood resident.

Police believe the shooting was gang-related, but aren't certain of who the intended target might have been. There is a police camera at an intersection next to the park, but it's not clear whether it captured any images that will assist investigators.

"We believe the weapon used in this incident was an assault-style rifle with a high-capacity magazine weapon," Supt. McCarthy said. "This appears to be a gang-related shooting."

If the shooting is gang-related, that in no way "lessens the seriousness of the nature" of the shooting, McCarthy said. "Even if it's gang-related, even if we have the most hardened criminal, who becomes the victim of gun violence, that individual is the father, brother, sister, sometimes parent of somebody else.

McCarthy is calling for a federal ban assault weapons ban.

"Illegal guns, illegal guns, illegal guns drive violence. Military-type weapons, like the one we believe to have been used in the shooting, belong in a battlefield, not in a street or in a corner, or in a park in the Back of the Yards," Supt. McCarthy said.

At this point, police have not announced any arrests in the case.

Youngest victim will recover, family says

On Friday night, the mother of the youngest victim, 3-year-old Deonta Howard, made a public plea to the gunman responsible for the heinous attack on 13 people in a public park.

"Could they please turn themself in? They shot my three-year-old with a gun," said Shamarah Leggett, mother of victim.

With her son undergoing a second operation to repair bullet wounds to his face, across the street from Cornell Square Park, a 24-year-old mother describes what happened after someone opened fire on a crowd watching basketball.

"He was the only person running around the park with a hole in his face," said Leggett.

She describes the gruesome image of her son, three-year-old Deontae Howard, who is recovering from the worst of the wounds suffered by 13 victims.

Despite this part of the Back of the Yards reputation, witnesses say they are shocked by the shootings that have reverberated around the world.

It's violence a young mother, and others, simply can't comprehend.

"Stop the violence, it's no good. This is only leading to, more bodies, more bodies, on top of bodies," said Leggett.

A bullet struck the preschooler's ear and exited through his cheek. He did not suffer any brain damage, his family said, and he is expected to recover. Pastor Corey Brooks was brought to Mt. Sinai to comfort the victims and their families. He also presided over the funeral of Deonta's uncle, who was killed in a shooting over Labor Day Weekend.

"The baby that was shot, 3 years old, is in intensive care. He's going into another surgery now," said Pastor Corey Brooks, New Beginnings Church.

As four victims recover at Mount Sinai Hospital on Friday, Mayor Emanuel came to visit them and their families. He ended his trip to Washington abruptly after hearing news of the mass shooting. But the youngest victim, Deonta Howard, was not conscious for any visitors.

"It's not going to stop. All these kids getting killed for no apparent reason they get shot. A baby just got shot in the face. Three years old, shot in the face," said Rochetta Tyler, Deonta's aunt.

"It's got to stop, because you're all hurting innocent people, kids, children especially, they ain't even lived a full life," said Semehca Nunn, Deonta's grandmother.

Mayor Emanuel left Mount Sinai without commenting to the media.

A 15-year-old boy was shot in the arm and a 17-year-old girl was shot in the foot. The oldest victim, a 41-year-old man, is in serious condition. Others suffered minor injuries.

"When I turned my back, that's when the shots were flying everywhere and I took off running and one of the bullets I seen when it ricocheted and it hit me in my back. But I didn't know that it hit me until someone told me I was shot. So I just thank God I'm here," said Niesha Brannon, shooting victim.

One shooting victim, who did not want to be identified, spoke with ABC7.

"I looked back on the basketball court, I see people lying out. It's just disturbing to see somebody going through what they're going through."

Pastor Corey Brooks also said the absence of morals brings the presence of violence, referring to the code of silence. He is urging any witnesses to share any information with police. He also has a message for the person or persons responsible for this tragedy: Turn yourself in for your own safety.

On Friday afternoon, White House spokeswoman Joanna Rosholm issued the following statement: "The President was dismayed to learn of yet another deplorable act of gun violence, this time in his hometown of Chicago. He sends his thoughts and prayers to the several victims who were shot last night and hopes for their speedy recovery. The President remains committed to pushing Congress to pass commonsense measures and is doing everything in his executive power to reduce gun violence."

The shooting comes nearly three weeks after Chicago saw an outburst of violence over the Labor Day weekend that ended with eight dead and 20 others injured. The Chicago Police Department has responded to shootings that have grabbed national headlines by stepping up its crime-fighting efforts, paying overtime to add patrols to some neighborhoods, including the Back of the Yards, where Thursday's shooting took place.

"Every time somebody's shot in the city, it's a setback," McCarthy said.

Despite Thursday night's mass shooting, Chicago police say shootings and murders are down this year compared to last year.

They say murders have dropped 21 percent, which equates to 84 fewer people killed, and there have been 414 fewer shootings so far this year-- a 23% drop.

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