Matthew Kaplan Photography

March for Melissa Ortega - Little Village - January 29th, 2022

Caught in the crossfire of a gang shooting, eight year old Melissa Ortega lost her life in broad daylight last Saturday, while holding her mother's hand. She and her mom were walking on 26th Street, a busy shopping street in the heart of Chicago's Little Village neighborhood, when a teenaged boy allegedly fired shots at rival gang members on the corner of Komensky Avenue, striking one of his targets in the back, and hitting Melissa Ortega in the head. It was 2:45 in the afternoon. She died shortly after, at Stroger Hospital.

A week later, heartbroken community members marched down 26th Street from the Little Village arch at Kedzie Avenue, to the site of the murder one mile west, chanting "What do we want? Justice for Melissa! When do we want it? Now!" Demonstrators mourned the tragic death, and called for increased spending on mental healthcare in the predominantly low income neighborhood.

At the corner of 26th and Pulaski, in front of a makeshift shrine to the murdered youngster, speeches were made decrying the scourge of gun violence in Chicago, prayers were spoken, songs were sung, and hundreds of balloons were released into the frigid winter air.

Police have arrested two people in connection with the shootings, a 16 year old boy who allegedly fired the shots, and a 27 year old man who is accused of driving the getaway car. The teenager was already on probation, having pleaded guilty in October 2021 to multiple counts of aggravated carjacking and possession of a stolen vehicle. He will be charged as an adult in this case. Both suspects are being held without bond.

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