Girl, 8, killed by stray bullet in Little Village shooting had recently moved to city, attended Zapata Academy

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- An 8-year-old girl died Saturday after she was struck by a stray bullet in Little Village as someone opened fire at a man coming out of a nearby store, according to Chicago police.

Melissa Ortega was walking with a guardian about 2:45 p.m. when someone fired shots at the 26-year-old man in the 3900 block of West 26th Street, striking him in the back, police and the Cook County medical examiner’s office said.

The guardian heard the gunfire and saw the girl was shot in the head, police said. She was taken to Stroger Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

The man who police said was the intended target was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital in critical condition, according to police.

As Area Four detectives investigated Saturday evening, evidence markers indicated more than a dozen shell casings were recovered at the scene. The back window of a minivan was shattered by gunfire.

Melissa was a student at Zapata Academy in the neighborhood, the Chicago Teachers Union said.

“This suffering is becoming too familiar for our babies and their families, who our educators love, nurture and support,” the union wrote in a post on Twitter. “Wishing Melissa’s family and Zapata community peace and healing tonight.”

The girl’s family recently moved to the city from Mexico and she and her mother had been walking to Walgreens when the gunfire erupted, according to community activist Andrew Holmes, who spoke with reporters outside Stroger Hospital.

He urged anyone with information about the shooting to contact police.

A GoFundMe page had raised more than $8,000 Saturday night with a $20,000 goal to help Melissa’s family pay for funeral expenses and said she would be buried in her hometown in Mexico.

“They were both excited to start a new life in Chicago and build their American Dream. I was honored to have met Melissa and will always remember her beautiful smile,” the page’s organizer wrote.

Diane Thompson, 39, said she was driving to a nearby thrift store minutes after the shooting happened when a man tapped on her window and said, “Someone just killed a little girl,” and mimicked a gun with his fingers.

Thompson, who lives on the Northwest Side, watched as emergency responders loaded the girl on a stretcher into an ambulance.

“You hear about things every day on the news,” Thompson said. “It hits different, seeing the aftermath.”

She said a coworker from Wisconsin recently asked her if she felt safe in Chicago.

“No, not so much,” she recounted.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire & Chicago Sun-Times 2022. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)