8-Year-Old Girl Fatally Struck by Stray Bullet in Chicago

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CHICAGO — One minute 8-year-old Melissa Ortega was walking with her mother through their Little Village community Saturday afternoon. The next, gunshots rang out, and mother and daughter broke into a sprint, trying to run to safety in a nearby bank.

But it was too late.

One of those bullets had already struck Melissa in the head as the pair walked in the 3900 block of West 26th Street at 2:45 p.m., according to Chicago police. She was rushed to Stroger Hospital in critical condition, where she was pronounced dead at 4:43 p.m. 

The Cook County medical examiner’s office identified her Sunday morning as Melissa Ortega, 8, of the 2800 block of South Tripp Avenue, also in Little Village.

Police said the shooter wasn’t aiming at Melissa — who was a student in the third grade at Emiliano Zapata Academy — or her mother. Authorities said the shooter intended to harm a 26-year-old man who was walking out of a store not far from where Melissa and her mother stood.

The 26-year-old also was shot in the lower back and he was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital in critical condition; officials did not have an update on his condition Sunday morning.

Melissa and her mother moved to Chicago in August after emigrating from Mexico, according to an online fundraising page created to offset funeral expenses. The GoFundMe page said Melissa is to be buried in her hometown of Los Sauces in the Mexican state of Tabasco.

“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 creator of the page wrote.

A spokeswoman for GoFundMe verified the validity of the page, ensuring that the more than $26,000 raised as of Sunday afternoon — more than $6,000 beyond what the site originally set out to raise — would go to Melissa’s relatives, as intended.

In a statement, the Chicago Teachers Union lamented the shooting of another innocent child and extended its condolences to the Ortega family and all those who knew Melissa from Zapata Academy, saying it “sends its love to Melissa’s family and the Zapata Academy community, and wish them peace and healing from this heartbreaking tragedy.”

The union also decried the ongoing violence in the city.

“Our union mourns the loss of another student from one of our school communities. This suffering is becoming all too familiar for many of Chicago’s children and families, who our educators nurture and support every day,” said the statement from CTU spokesman Ronnie Reese.

No arrests have been made and detectives continue to investigate.

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