GREATER GRAND CROSSING — Less than three weeks ago, Antonio Smith was on top of the world as he marched through the South Side in the Bud Billiken Parade with his football team.
The 9-year-old, who was set to enter fourth grade, was gunned down in a South Side yard Wednesday evening.
Antonio's mother, Brandi Murry, said the last time she talked to her son was when she took him to football practice Tuesday. She checked on him before leaving for work Wednesday, but on her way home she got a heartbreaking call from Antonio's brother: Her son had been shot.
When she arrived at her apartment in the 1100 block of East 73rd Street, officers were waiting for her. She was told Antonio had been shot twice in the chest and one of the bullets pierced his heart, she said.
"My son didn't deserve [this]... No kid deserves to be gunned down like that. I don't care who it is or what they've done. They don't need to be gunned down like that," Murry said. "My baby was a good kid."
Officers found the 9-year-old boy shot multiple times in a backyard in the 1200 block of East 71st Street around 4 p.m. Wednesday, said Officer Amina Greer, a Chicago Police Department spokeswoman. He was taken to Comer Children's Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Greer said.
The boy's family and neighbors on 73rd Street said they didn't know why Antonio would be in that yard.
Geraldine Cooper said she has lived in Antonio's apartment complex for over a decade and has seen it change to a much safer area, where parents take turns watching the children play and neighbors call the police when shady characters attempt to gather. The incident made her wonder why Antonio would wander away from the safety of the apartment complex.
"He was such a nice little boy. I'm just wondering what he was doing way over there. I don't understand that," she said. "We all watch the kids — that's why I'm trying to understand why he was even in that area. I don't get that."
Antonio was slated to begin the fourth grade after Labor Day. He spent most of his time with other children in the apartment complex playing any sport they could on the lawn.
"He was smart and funny. He played a lot, joked a lot. He was just a normal 9-year-old kid. I don't know why this happened," Murry told a throng of reporters Thursday morning.
Kawada Hodges, Antonio's father, said he was shocked that a boy so young could be gunned down in the streets.
"Chicago hurt me. The city hurt me. Chicago let me down," Hodges said. "I'm not a gang member ... never have been, and I survived the streets. [I've] been on my own since I was 12 years old. He was 9."
Police had few details about the slaying Thursday. No one was in custody.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: