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Girl, 4, Shot in Portage Park as Gunman Sprays Car at Stoplight

By Erica Demarest | August 12, 2013 6:41am | Updated on August 12, 2013 1:30pm
 Three people were shot Sunday night near this intersection at Irving Park Road and Central Avenue in Portage Park.
Three people were shot Sunday night near this intersection at Irving Park Road and Central Avenue in Portage Park.
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DNAinfo/Erica Demarest

PORTAGE PARK — A 4-year-old girl was shot in the hip in Portage Park Sunday after a gunman pulled up next to the car she was in and sprayed it with bullets — the second shooting in as many days in the usually quiet Northwest Side neighborhood.

The girl and two others survived the drive-by at 10:15 p.m. after making a quick U-turn, Ald. Tim Cullerton (38th) said.

In the wake of the shootings, Cullerton said he wants to meet with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy to talk about police manpower in the area. He'll also meet with the area's police commander and deputy chief before hosting a community meeting with neighborhood residents.

Cullerton said he'd welcome more police officers in the area but understands there's a "delicate balance act between funding and personnel.

"The shooting was disconcerting. It's a 4-year-old child. I have a 4-year-old granddaughter," he said. "Anybody getting shot is certainly not a good thing. But when it's an innocent child like that ..."

The 4-year-old and several family members were in a car heading north on Central Avenue Sunday night when they stopped for a red light at West Berteau Avenue, Cullerton said.

That's when a second car pulled up, and a gunman leaned out of a window and opened fire, the alderman said.

The driver of the girl's car made a sharp U-turn to get away and pulled into a 7-Eleven convenience store at Irving Park Road and Central, where a police car had been spotted minutes earlier, Cullerton said.

The 4-year-old was taken in serious-to-critical condition to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, according to authorities. She was expected to be released Monday afternoon.

A 17-year-old boy was hit in his thigh, and a 20-year-old man was struck in his arm and leg. They were taken to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center. They are also expected to survive.

Portage Park resident Fernando Camacho, 44, who lives with his wife down the street from the shooting, said he he's worried about the safety of his two children, who are home from college for the summer.

Camacho has lived in the neighborhood for about 10 years and said that while it's a nice community, he's noticed problems over the past 12 months, mostly near the intersection of Irving and Central.

"I don't want to say the neighborhood is getting bad because it's just one part," Camacho said.

He noted that young men hang out in a parking lot on the northwest corner of the intersection, and a lot of youths gather across the street in the park entrance. He's seen the young men throw gang signs and be escorted from the park by police.

"We try not to go that way. ... Gangbangers stay there," Camacho said, noting that the 7-Eleven has begun employing security guards.

"It is a haven between the 7-Eleven and the southwest corner of the park," Cullerton said Monday. "There's certainly a lot of loitering in that area."

But the alderman said "very aggressive" police work was keeping crime at bay. Cullerton said gangs were a problem about two years ago, but district police have diminished that threat.

Edward Boone, a 59-year-old resident, said the shooting surprised him because "It's real peaceful [in Portage Park]. That's one of the reasons I moved here from the West Side."

But he, like several neighbors interviewed, said he has noticed problems — such as graffiti cropping up in the last few weeks at various intersections and in the nature preserve. 

"It's so pretty in there, and they just go in and tag it," Boone said.

Boone still finds the neighborhood safe, he said, even if problems with violence occasionally "spill over into the park.

"That could've been anybody — I mean, it could've been me — going into the 7-Eleven," Boone said.

"I always know no matter how serene and peaceful a neighborhood is, there's still gangs. There's always crime and gangs in the city. You can't move someplace and say, 'I'm safe.'" Boone said.

Cullerton asked residents to call 911 when they notice loiterers or other suspicious activity. The alderman said he hears a lot of complaints, but that very few 911 service calls are recorded.

"People can't just expect police to do everything," he said. "They have to get involved in the process. Police welcome that."

The 4-year-old girl was among at least 30 people wounded in shootings from Friday night until midnight Sunday. Four were killed in weekend shootings, according to the Chicago Police Department. In the last seven days, police recovered 139 illegal guns, they said.

In other overnight shootings:

• About 10:40 p.m. Sunday in Washington Heights, three men were walking down the 9000 block of South Ada Street when a gunman appeared in a gangway and opened fire, said Officer Ron Gaines, a Police Department spokesman.

A 19-year-old man was hit in thigh, a 17-year-old boy was struck in his shoulder, and a 23-year-old man was grazed in his head, and all were listed in fair condition at local hospitals, Gaines said.

• About 3:45 a.m. Monday, a 36-year-old man and a woman in her 20s were shot in the 1400 block of West 84th Street in Auburn Gresham, police said. Both were taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in stable condition.

The man is affiliated with a gang, but the woman appears to have no gang affiliation, police said.

Emily Morris contributed to this report.