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Teens Hit by Stray Bullets in Pilsen Recount Frightening Incident

By Darryl Holliday | December 20, 2012 8:43am | Updated on December 20, 2012 10:12am

PILSEN — When Giselle Serrano heard the pop of a gun as she walked with a friend near her home, she didn't realize what had happened.

The bullet that ripped into her arm felt like nothing more than a "strong pressure — like a puff of air."

"My friend said, 'Gigi, what are you doing? Run!' And that's when I got shot," said Giselle, 16.

Now, the slug that lodged itself in her arm is going to be with the straight-A student forever.

"Am I going to ring [going] through metal detectors?" she joked.

Giselle and her friend Maribel Vanegas, 16, had just left a store near 23rd and Leavitt streets — within sight of both their homes — around 3:45 p.m. on Tuesday.

The girls, both Jane Addams High School juniors and lifelong residents of Pilsen, were standing with two teenage boys when a maroon car pulled up and shots rang out.

"One of the guys [we were with] grabbed me and told me to run," said Maribel, who had her back turned during the shooting, as did Giselle. "I didn't feel the bullet at all. Then I reached down, and I saw blood."

Giselle said she didn't realize that she had been shot.

"It sounded like a pellet gun," she said of the .22-caliber weapon. "It sounded so fake."

Neither of the male teens with the girls was injured, but Giselle and Maribel were taken to John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital.

Police theorized that the girls were not the target of the shooting and said that one of the men in the group was a gang member. No suspects were in custody Wednesday.

For Maribel, it was a close call, said her her mom, Lydia Chavez.

"At first the doctors thought the bullet might have hit too close to her spine or that she may not have been able to have children," Chavez said. "Anything and everything goes through your head as a parent when you hear that."

Both girls escaped with relatively minor injuries and were released that same night. The two bullets that hit Maribel in her lower body went clean through. The bullet that hit Giselle, however, lodged itself in her arm and will stay with her forever.

The girls' mothers said their daughters are stellar students, and Giselle's mother proudly displayed her straight-A report card on the living room table.

Maribel's mother touted her daughter's skill as a runner.

"I was more worried about Giselle than myself," Maribel said.

Despite the pain, both girls were cheery, smiling and glad to be home with their families.

"My daughter called while she was in the ambulance," Maribel's mother said. "She said she didn't want me to worry."

According to Giselle's mother and grandmother, the teen was more upset about ruining her perfect attendance streak at school than the painful wound on her left arm.

And Chavez said her daughter has been trying to talk her into letting her go back to school early. Doctors told Maribel she has a one- to two-week recovery ahead of her, her mother said.

"She thinks she's going shopping tomorrow," Chavez said with a laugh.

"I am," Maribel replied with a grin.