'He never came back': 7-year-old killed by stray bullet on Near West Side was joy in his community

Community activists offer $15,000 reward for information leading to arrest, murder weapon in Jai'mani Amir Rivera's death

Thursday, June 20, 2024
$15K reward offered in death of 7-year-old boy killed by stray bullet
There is now a $15,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and the murder weapon in the death of Jai'mani Amir Rivera, who was struck and killed by a stray bullet.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- There is a $15,000 reward being offered for information leading to an arrest and the murder weapon used in the death of a 7-year-old boy shot and killed on Chicago's Near West Side Tuesday afternoon.

Jai'mani Amir Rivera, who was hit by a stray bullet, was a grade-schooler, who loved Spider-Man and video games, his family said Wednesday. He has been described as a joy to the community, and that community raised the reward money to find his killer.

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Rivera's aunt spoke through tears. She said her nephew was an only child, and their family is forever changed.

Chicago police are vowing to find the shooter, and bring swift justice.

"He was about to start football in August with all the boys. And that's all he talked about was football, and how he was gonna tackle the boys and just run them down," Rivera's aunt Daniella said.

"I loved my nephew, and the person that that took my nephew's life is going to pay for this," said Vanessa Rivera, another aunt, at a vigil and balloon release held Wednesday afternoon.

Rivera had stepped outside of his home to take something to his grandmother when he was hit by gunfire that erupted from a distance. His aunt said he was playing a video game before he left.

"He told his stepdad that 'don't touch the game; I'll be right back. Please don't touch my game.' And he never came back," Daniella said.

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CPD Superintendent Larry Snelling said officers responded to a call for shots fired at the Oakley Square Apartments, a gated complex, in the 2300-block of West Jackson Boulevard around 3 p.m. When they got there, they found the boy with a gunshot wound to the chest.

Snelling said the officers immediately applied pressure to the wound to try to slow the bleeding, and rushed the boy to Stroger Hospital in the back of their squad car. Despite their life-saving measures, the boy died at the hospital.

The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office said he was shot in the torso, and the incident is considered a homicide.

"There has to be justice brought for Jai'mani. Whoever is holding their child, not making him held responsible, you killed a 7-year-old baby. You destroyed an entire family," said Saleshea Peterson, who is with gun violence prevention group Hug A Child Make A Change. "They said he was a joy to the community. Even the security guards and the neighbors said he was a respectable young man."

He was about to start football in August with all the boys. And that's all he talked about was football
aunt Daniella

Peterson said residents at Oakley Square Apartments are scared.

They say the gunfire has been out of control for years, especially in the last few weeks.

"This is not safe for these people. Something needs to be done," Peterson said. "This violence has been going on for 20 years in this same building. There is no reason that a 7-year-old can't walk out of his door when he's in an alleged gated community that's supposed to be safe."

Chicago Police Superintendent Larry Snelling said he won't stop until there's justice in this case.

He said it appears the shooting was random, and doesn't believe Rivera was the intended target.

Snelling expressed his outrage Tuesday, along with the mayor.

WATCH: Update from CPD Supt. Larry Snelling, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson

CPD Supt. Larry Snelling and Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson gave an update on the child who died after being struck by gunfire on the Near West Side.

"We will hold individuals accountable for the crime, for the torment and the torture that they have caused in this city," Mayor Brandon Johnson said.

"We didn't lose a gang member on the streets. We didn't lose a hoodlum. We lost my nephew, a 7-year-old kid," Vanessa said.

Rivera's deat on the heels of a violent Father's Day weekend added to concerns that the city is at a tipping point.

"We're at a point right now that in this city either you're trying to figure out how not to die because you have nowhere to, you can't live here," said Tamar Manasseh, founder of Mothers and Men Against Senseless Killings.

Manasseh and her group have spent nine years setting up at the corner of 75th and Stewart in Englewood, providing meals, resources and programming for kids and to prevent violence. But after two shootings in the past two days just steps from her corner, she's considering pulling up stakes.

"And I explained, I said, 'No, no, no. It's safe here. When we're here, nothing happens,'" she said. "An hour after I told this mother I can keep your kids safe, someone comes through here shooting."

On Friday there will be a peace march in honor of Rivera, at 1 p.m.

That will step off at Jackson Boulevard and Western Avenue.

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