Baby Dies After Being Shot Five Times as Father Changed Her Diaper

By Sam CholkeCasey Cora and Darryl Holliday  on March 11, 2013 1:25pm  | Updated on March 11, 2013 8:27pm

CHICAGO — A 6-month-old girl who was shot multiple times as her father changed her diaper Monday afternoon has died, according to a spokesman for the family.

The Rev. Corey Brooks, who is serving as a family spokesman, told reporters Tuesday morning that Jonylah Watkins died overnight.

The baby had been rushed to Comer Children's Hospital at the University of Chicago Monday and was initially in serious-to-critical condition, police said.

Brooks said he received a call from Jonylah Watkins' family at 6:40 a.m. Tuesday telling him the girl had died. He said her father, who remains at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, has been notified of her death.

Jonylah Watkins was in critical condition at 7:30 p.m. Monday, according to University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital spokesman John Easton.

Shortly before 7 p.m. Monday, the baby's mother, Judy Watkins, came out of the hospital and stood with Brooks. Brooks said the baby, who had just gotten out of surgery, had been shot five times —  in the lung, liver, leg, shoulder, and bowel or intestine.

The shooting came just months after the baby's mother was shot — while she was pregnant with the girl.

"This mother is really hurt. We need everyone in Chicago praying for this family right now," said Brooks, who lives four blocks from the shooting.

"For a baby to get shot is despicable. Whenever anyone shoots a baby, that's a cowardly act."

The girl's father, identified by family as Jonathan Watkins, 28, was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he was in serious-to-critical condition, police said. A police source said he is a known member of the Gangster Disciples street gang.

The shooting happened at 12:48 p.m. in the 6500 block of South Maryland Avenue, Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said.

Watkins was visiting friends in the area, family members said. Officer John Mirabelli, a Chicago Police spokesman, said Watkins had his back to an alley as he was changing his daughter's diaper on the passenger seat of a parked tan van. A man emerged from an alley and fired several shots at him from behind, grazing his right cheek and striking him in the buttocks and left side, Mirabelli said.

Police initially said the girl was hit in the shoulder by a bullet, which lodged in one of her thighs. But family members later said she had five gunshot wounds.

"It was so loud," said the girl's aunt, Casha Moore, 18, who was walking a few blocks away and heard the shots. "So, so loud. It was a big gun."

Dominique Young, 21, another aunt who lives nearby, heard “big gunshots” ring out and ran toward the scene. She arrived to find the driver’s side window of Watkins’ van shot out and the passenger door open.

“They knew she was in there, and they tried to take my niece’s life, and it’s so wrong,” Young said.

The shooter then fled through a nearby lot and into a waiting blue minivan, Mirabelli said.

Police offered no motive for the shooting.

Brooks' church, New Beginnings Church of Chicago, is offering a $5,000 reward for anyone who brings information on the shooting to the police that leads to an arrest.

Tuesday morning, Brooks said another community group has chipped in an additional $1,000 to bring the reward to $6,000.

"We have no idea why the shooting happened," said Brooks, who declined to comment on the police allegation that the father had gang ties.

Brooks said the girl's mother was "distraught."

Mary Young, the baby's grandmother, was in a state of disbelief at the hospital.

"I just want whoever did this, they are very cowardly, and they should turn themselves in," she said.

Young said she had been with the baby and her father about 10 minutes before the shooting.

Relatives described the neighborhood as dangerous and rife with gang activity.

Dominque Young said Judy Watkins, 21, was the victim of a shooting near 65th and Drexel Boulevard several months ago, taking a bullet to the knee while she was eight months pregnant with Jonylah. She’d been walking home from the store with a group of women when someone opened fire. No one was arrested in that incident, relatives said.

“They always shooting,” said Tiffany Young, another of Judy Watkins’ sisters. “Everybody that got killed or shot, we know them. We’re close together with them. There’s been killings all the time over there.

"That’s why the police be sitting over there all the time, but I guess they wasn’t right there this time.”

Monique Rogers, Judy Watkins' cousin, described Jonathan Watkins, who is unemployed, as an "average man" who enjoys spending time with his infant daughter. He has only been married for about a month to Judy Watkins, who works at a South Side McDonald's, Rogers said.

Rogers described the relationship as affectionate and rarely marred by arguments.

"He was being really good to his girl," Rogers said of Watkins' relationship with Jonylah.

She said she didn't know if he was in a gang.

"That's what they always say," Rogers said of police reports linking Watkins to the Gangster Disciples.

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