GARFIELD PARK — The mother of a 3-year-old boy shot Thursday with 12 others, in what police called a late-night gang ambush, said her son is slowly recovering from his devastating injuries.
Shamarah Leggett, 24, spoke to reporters outside Mount Sinai Hospital, where her son, Deonta' Howard, was recovering after he was shot in his face on the Cornell Square Park basketball court in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.
"As his mother, I can only be strong because he's strong," she said. "He's doing better than I expected. He's moving around, playing — he's back to Deonta'."
"He's definitely being Deonta'. He's all over the place," she said, smiling.
The side of Deonta's face is still swollen from the attack, his mother said. His eye is swollen shut, and he has stitches along his jaw and nose, but he is expected to recover.
He's up and moving, his mother said, but he will require surgeries and medical procedures for years to come.
Leggett talked about the frightening moments when shots from an assault rifle rang out in the park.
"We all was there, and I'm just seeing bodies drop left and right," she said. "I just stood there. I wanted to take off running, but all you heard was bullets hitting the ground."
As she searched for her son in the chaos, Leggett said she heard him calling out for her and finally saw the extent of his injuries.
Leggett said Deonta' was conscious and talking during the ordeal. He said, "Mom, they shot me," and tried to stand up several times before he was taken to the hospital," she said.
The Rev. Corey Brooks said a bullet struck near the back of the boy's ear, below his skull, before emerging from his jaw.
The mass shooting turned a national spotlight back on Chicago violence, a problem the city has been aggressively battling with new policing strategies and the seizure of illegal guns.
In a statement issued Friday, President Barack Obama said he was dismayed to hear about the shootings.
Leggett thanked Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who canceled a Friday meeting in Washington, D.C., and flew back to Chicago after the incident, where he later visited Deonta's family in the hospital and vowed "justice and prosecution under the full extent of the law" for the shooters.
"Our neighborhood was our home, and now we don't feel safe," Leggett said Tuesday night. "He always wanted to go to the park, but we don't have anywhere else to take him.
"It's gonna be awhile before we can overcome this," she said.
The family doesn't plan on ever returning to Cornell Square Park. Leggett said she hopes to move her two sons, Deonta' and his 9-year-old brother, away as soon as possible.
She had a few words for her attackers and other would-be shooters in Chicago: "I hope they can feel some sort of sympathy."
Four men were charged with three counts of attempted murder and three counts of aggravated battery with a firearm.