WOODLAWN — Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Friday said the city's parks belong to the people of Chicago — not gang members, as community members gathered in the wake of a mass shooting Thursday that wounded 13 people, including a 3-year-old boy.
Emanuel, who abruptly ended a trip to Washington and flew back to Chicago after hearing of the shooting, appeared at the New Beginnings Baptist Church, where Pastor Corey Brooks led a peace rally and prayer service.
"Let us pray for our children, and let us work together, because for our children to live up their full potential ... we must live up to our full responsibility," Emanuel said.
The shooting at Cornell Square Park took place during a basketball game, and police found shell casings that are often used with assault weapons. Police suspect the shooting was gang related.
"Assault weapons do not belong in our parks. They do not belong on our streets," Emanuel said. "The parks in the city of Chicago belong to the families of the city of Chicago. The streets belong to the families of the city of Chicago. The front stoops of our homes belong to the families of the city of Chicago."
Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, in a press conference Thursday morning, promised a swift resolution and said police were questioning people who may have been involved in the shooting that wounded 3-year-old Deonta' Howard.
The boy's mother, Shamarah Leggert, urged whomever was responsible for the shooting to come forward.
"I just want whoever who knows something about the shooting to come forward," Leggert said after the peace rally. "For my baby's sake, for my sake, turn themselves in. My baby is hurt."
Deonta' underwent surgery Friday at Mt. Sinai Hospital after being shot in the face. A bullet entered the back of the 3-year-old's head and exited through his cheek. Leggert, breaking down in sobs, said her son received the brunt of the shooting.
"They shot 13 people, but everybody else was shot in the arm, in the leg," she said. "But my baby, 3 years old, shot in the face with an army gun?"
Deonta''s family is no stranger to gun violence. Semehca Nunn, the boy's grandmother, said she had just buried her 21-year-old son Jerome Wood on Monday after he was gunned down on Sept. 2.
Nunn said she believes all the shooting is due to gang beefs in the area that began with the Aug. 30 shooting death of Rico Lawrence.
"That's why all the shooting in the neighborhood is going on now," Nunn said Friday. "It's been going on ever since then."
During the prayer service, Brooks echoed the call for those responsible for Thursday's attack to come forward and said the community is "100 percent against gun violence."
"It's important that we, as Chicago citizens, stand up," he said. "We can only make our community better when we take stand together."
Earlier Friday, Brooks said he wanted the country to treat what happened in Cornell Square Park the same way other mass shootings around the country.
"I'm hoping and praying that America will see that these children who are being shot and killed and the children who are shooting, these are American children," he said. "And so, because this is an American issue, then we all have to do something about it."
As community members expressed outrage at the mass shooting, at least one of the victims appeared at the peace rally.
Niesha Brannon, 33, said she was walking her dog at Cornell Square Park Thursday night when she stopped to talk to some friends at the basketball court. Deonta', whose nickname is Tay Man, was playing with her dog when shots rang out. Brannon said she began to run and saw bullets fly over her head.
She was shot in the back and taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where she was released early this morning.
"I ran. I was gone, and then all I heard was screaming: 'Tay Man! Tay Man! He shot!'" she said. "I just heard a lot of screaming. Everybody shot, you know. It was too much, too much."
Brannon said she didn't realized she'd been hit.
"It hit me and I didn't feel nothing. I just kept running, and when I stopped, some boy was like, 'You hit,'" she said.