WOODLAWN — The mother of a 6-month-old girl who was shot five times while her father changed her diaper said she doesn't know who might have been targeting her husband, who expressed disbelief that the baby had died.
“He loved this baby," Judy Watkins said Tuesday afternoon from a makeshift memorial at the scene of Jonylah Watkins' shooting in the 6500 block of South Maryland Avenue. "When I told him this morning that she died, he was crying. He can't believe it.”
Asked about the police assertion Tuesday that the shooting may have been gang-related, she said she didn't know which gangs police were referring to.
Judy Watkins, 19, said she wants justice for her daughter.
"I'm looking for him," she said of Jonylah's killer. "When I find him, he's going to jail.”
Judy Watkins' mom, Mary Young, had a message for her granddaughter's killer: "Turn yourself in."
Judy Watkins was among the 200 people at a Tuesday evening vigil at the site of the shooting.
"You can imagine how difficult it is just for [Judy Watkins] to be out here," said the Rev. Corey Brooks, acting as a spokesman for the family of Jonylah Watkins. "Everyone in Woodlawn is not bad. We want everyone to see all of us here together."
Said Ald. Willie Cochran (20th), who attended the vigil: "There is no place for this person to hide — we will not tolerate it. We will insist on accountability."
Earlier Tuesday, Judy Watkins denied reports from her family members that she had been shot while pregnant with Jonylah last year.
She said she is going to miss the girl, who seemed to know how her mother was feeling even though she was only 6 months old.
"She always knew what was going on with me," said Judy Watkins, who family members say married Jonathan Watkins, 29, last month. Jonylah "was a happy baby. I'm going to miss my baby.”
Doctors tried to save Jonylah's life with surgery Monday, but she died at 6 a.m. Tuesday at Comer Children's Hospital.
Jonathan Watkins remained at Northwestern Memorial Hospital Tuesday evening getting treatment for the three gunshot wounds he suffered.
At a news conference, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said the girl's killer was "exclusively" targeting her father in a case that had "strong gang overtones." A police source earlier said Jonathan Watkins was a member of the Gangster Disciples.
"This appears to be a targeted incident," McCarthy said. "It was very clear that whoever was doing this was firing at the father and exclusively at the father, who happened to be sitting in the minivan with a child."
The girl and her father were in Woodlawn Monday when he started to change her diaper on the front seat of his parked minivan. A man came out of an alley and shot Watkins in his buttocks, left side and face, police said. The shooter then fled in a waiting blue minivan.
The blue minivan the suspect made off in was likely driven by another person, McCarthy said. Police have video surveillance of what they believe was that minivan, he said.
McCarthy said police believe there might have been two specific gangs involved in Monday's shooting. He said Jonathan Watkins was pinpointed in the Police Department's gang database and has been in and out of prison.
McCarthy said detectives have spoken with Jonathan Watkins, but it wasn't clear whether he would provide information to arrest his daughter's killer.
"At this point, we really do not have a good cooperating witness," McCarthy said.
After Monday's shooting, McCarthy said the department sent a "strong deployment" of officers to the area, which has "a lot of active gang conflicts."
Those conflicts were why Judy and Jonathan Watkins moved about 2½ miles south of Woodlawn about a year ago, according to a friend of the family.
"They thought it would be safer here" than at Jonathan Watkins' old apartment near State and 68th streets, said Markos Zoretic, 71, who owns the building where the couple lives now.
Zoretic said he was friends with Watkins' grandfather. He said he saw the father and child recently, and "He was carrying the little baby — he was always carrying her.
"He was so quiet — no drinking, no drugs ever," Zoretic said.
McCarthy said the father had been in and out of jail. Jonathan Watkins was arrested for manufacture and delivery of cannabis in June, but the status of that case was not immediately available.
Jonathan Watkins' sister, Cecilia Watkins, said that she didn't know why someone would target her brother.
"Only thing I can think of is we grew up in that neighborhood, and those people over there don't like my brother," she said. "That's the only thing I can think of, because I wasn't there, and I don't hang around there."
Brooks said the attention paid to Watkins' alleged gang ties is "offensive to the community."
"For everyone talking about gang affiliation, I think our focus needs to be on the fact that a 6-month-old baby died," Brooks said.
"The city of Chicago should be outraged that in our city a 6-month-old baby could be shot and killed. It's horrific, and for us not to speak out, and for us to not say anything would be just as horrific."
At times, Brooks' voice cracked, and tears streamed down his face as he talked about Jonylah.
Neighbors, community react
Brooks' church, New Beginnings Church of Chicago, said Monday it would offer a $5,000 reward for anyone who brings information on the shooting to the police that leads to an arrest. By Tuesday the award had grown to $11,000.
Other religious and political leaders weighed in on the tragedy Tuesday.
In a news conference, Mayor Rahm Emanuel decried the slaying as "despicable."
"You can make progress," the mayor said about the city's effort to reduce murders in Chicago. "And then you get a senseless, despicable act of violence like this that is just heartbreaking."
Earlier Tuesday, Ald. Cochran issued a statement saying that the corner where the shooting occurred "has been under the constant watch of a posted police car for over a year now.
"Unfortunately, yesterday that was not enough. This incident reminds us that more still needs to be done to protect residents from the senseless violence that has plagued our city.
"My heart goes out to the families of the victims," Cochran said.
The Rev. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Parish pleaded for someone to come forward with information on who shot Jonylah and her father.
"6 Month old Shot multiple times," the activist Catholic priest posted on Twitter. "What the hell have we become? Before the Sun sets today somebody has to turn in the Shooter........SPEAK UP!"