WEST ENGLEWOOD — Leslie Freeman and her 1-year-old son Demonte were in a van in Murray Park Sunday when a vehicle turned a corner and someone inside opened fire.
The mother and child were hit.
As a friend rushed the two to a hospital, the mother screamed, "Oh my God! That's my baby! He's only 1. He can't defend himself."
Losing a lot of blood, she felt as if she were going to faint seeing her son bleeding next to her, Freeman recalled in an interview Monday from her bed at Mount Sinai Hospital.
"They were telling me, 'It's going to be OK, it's going to be OK,' but that's my baby," said Freeman, 26.
Shot in the left arm, the boy is "remarkably strong," Freeman said. Nurses tell her Demonte is doing better and moving around, she said.
"This is ridiculous when your kids can't go to school because they're getting shot. They can't go to the park without getting shot. You're not even safe in your home," she said.
At a news conference Monday, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said the owner of the vehicle Freeman and her son were in "may, in fact, be a ranking gangbanger."
"It was not a random act," McCarthy said. "You know, these things generally don't happen in vacuums. There's going to be very strong gang overtones."
Freeman said Sunday began with Freeman's grandmother taking Demonte to church. Later, Freeman took the boy to Murray Park to play.
Around 6 p.m., as Freeman socialized with friends in the vehicle parked at Murray, her son climbed in her lap, she said.
Moments later, a red van turned the corner in the 1700 block of West 73rd street, and someone inside began shooting, she said.
"My first instinct was to grab my son," said Freeman, who curled into a ball until the shots ceased.
She jumped out of the car and told her friends, "I've been shot. I've been shot." Then she saw blood on her son, who had been screaming the entire time, and asked her friend "Is that the blood from my arm?"
She realized her son had been shot, too.
Demonte loves play with a basketball at Murray Park — the same park where Bulls star Derrick Rose played growing up.
"I call him little Derrick Rose. He's always saying, 'ball, ball, ball,'" Freeman said of her son. "He sits down and watches basketball games and hollers at the TV."
Freeman said she was scared for herself and her son and that she had been shot at a party a couple of years ago.