Vigil held after Back of the Yards mass shooting kills 9-year-old girl, wounds 10 others

3 boys -- ages 1, 8, and 9 -- were shot at the family gathering

ByChristian Piekos, Michelle Gallardo, Maher Kawash, Tre Ward, and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
Vigil held for girl killed, 10 wounded in mass shooting on South Side
A vigil was held after a Chicago shooting in Back of the Yards killed Ariana Molina and wounded 10 others near 52nd Street and South Damen Avenue.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As police continue to investigate a deadly mass shooting on Chicago's South Side, the family remains shell-shocked.

After Saturday night's tragedy, the family of the victims is still coming to terms with their loss, their own injuries and the care those still hospitalized need. It is almost too much to comprehend. And on Monday, the community stood up and said, "We are with you."

Dozens of people took to the streets of Back of the Yards on Monday afternoon to speak out against the gun violence that took the life of 9-year-old Ariana Molina.

"All the beautiful memories I spent with her, always smiling. Very smart girl in school, as well," said Emilio, Ariana's godfather.

People also gathered to surround Ariana's family with love and prayer.

"Help us Lord to live up to your expectations. Help us to life up to who we are. Help us to be our better selves," one speaker said.

The family is not just mourning the loss of their princess, as they called her, but is also struggling to care for those still in hospital, including two boys who are just 1 and 8 years old.

"They are both intubated, still in critical condition," the boys' great aunt, Julia Molina, said, in Spanish. "They each had two bullets taken out of their stomachs."

SEE ALSO | After Back of the Yards mass shooting, CPD Supt. Snelling wonders, 'Where's the outrage?'

Family members said the 1-year-old boy may need a kidney and the 8-year-old boy is moving his head when people speak to him. Both boys are stable.

In all, 11 people were injured in Saturday night's shooting.

"Hearing my mom on FaceTime with all the children and the moms and my cousins in the background screaming, and asking for help but there was no one here to help yet," said Esme Vargas, Ariana's cousin.

The adult victims include two men, ages 36 and 38, and five women, ages 19, 26, 30, 36 and 40. A 9-year-old boy was also hurt.

Most of the victims are family members, including Ariana's mother, who remains hospitalized.

She was the best daughter ever
Jose Molina

"If everything comes good she might be able to come out tomorrow afternoon. She may be able to come out, so we can figure out what to do with my daughter," said Ariana's father, Jose Molina, who was also injured in the shooting.

Jose shared a video of his daughter playing with her pet birds.

"She was the best daughter ever... sweet... she loved to play... she was helpful... she was the best," Jose said. "Why would they come and shoot where you see all the little kids? They got something against any one of us, why don't they come to us. Why do they come to the little kids? What do the little kids have to do with that?"

Jose also hit back against police who in the immediate aftermath of the shooting implied it was likely gang-related. Jose's mother, he said, was hosting a confirmation party for his younger sister. It was a religious celebration.

Just as they were getting ready to cut the cake, Chicago police said, two shooters fired 18 rounds at the group.

"To me, that was disrespectful to my family. That's something they should find out first before they attack. Saying we're gang bangers and stuff like that," he said.

Community organizers said on Monday that they are out here for the long-haul to provide the family the support they will need going forward.

"We're all coming out now. This is right after the incident. We'll be here. But the long haul. We have to be here for the long haul, and that's a time of healing and coming together," said Father David Kelly with Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation. "We need to commit to ourselves, to one another, that we are going to work every single day so these kinds of thing don't happen."

An organization called Increase The Peace planned Monday night's prayer vigil. They say they want to pray for the family and the community.

"The tragic mass shooting in the Back of the Yards over the weekend was a cowardly act, and we are doing this prayer vigil as a way to show our support for the family -- as a way to unite our community against the violence in our neighborhoods, and to say, 'enough is enough,'" said Berto Aguayo, executive director of Increase the Peace.

Organizers of the prayer vigil say they will also be on the on the ground connecting community members to any services they might need.

Mayor Brandon Johnson also says there was be a mass canvassing event Monday at 2 p.m. around 52nd Street and Damen Avenue to provide the community with additional support including victim services.

Johnson issued the following statement about the shooting just after 5 p.m. Sunday:

"This heinous and cowardly act of wanton violence that leaves our city mourning children is beyond reprehensible and has no place in our communities. We are all allowed to be outraged today - a warm, spring day that I am sure this child would have been enjoying with family. I am praying for her loved ones and her community as they experience the unimaginable pain of losing a child. I am also praying for the recovery of the three children and seven adults who were injured in this horrific shooting. Our Mayor's Office of Community Safety has been in contact with the Chicago Police Department, which is committed to identifying and apprehending the individuals responsible.

The Community Safety Coordination Center has developed an initial response plan, which, among other resources, will consist of:
  • A mass canvassing event at 52nd and Damen and surrounding blocks on Monday, April 15, at 2 p.m. with the purpose of providing the community access to behavioral teams, victim services and case management

  • Financial support for the family of the child who passed away via the Emergency Supplemental Victim's Fund program

  • Emergency Services Assistance Center, starting today, April 14

  • Victim services to other victims and families

  • Increased 9th District CPD presence at impacted schools

As the CPD and our partners work through their investigation, the Back of the Yards community has the full support of our administration as they process and heal from this trauma."

Alderman Stephanie Coleman, who represents Chicago's 16th Ward released the following statement on Sunday morning:

The Back of the Yards community is united in our grief, prayers, and collective mindset that we must continue to stand firm against these senseless acts of physical force.
Violence is a citywide issue that continues to falsely characterize the true essence and intrinsic nature of our neighborhoods. This tragedy has left us all heartbroken and distressed. I am hopeful and confident that Superintendent Snelling and the Chicago Police Department will work tirelessly to apprehend the person or persons responsible for this cowardly crime.
I want to send my heartfelt condolences to the family of this precious jewel and my prayers to every person injured."

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