An 8-year-old girl who was jumping rope Tuesday night with her friends outside in Chicago's far South Side was killed by two gunmen who rode up on bicycles and opened fire.
The tragedy is just the latest in a recent spate of high-profile shootings to hit the city, many of them involving young victims.
The city is also in the midst of a violent summer on the heels of a Supreme Court decision that struck down its 28-year-old ban on handguns.
Mayor Richard Daley quickly pushed through a new ordinance that only allowed residents to have one working gun at a time in their homes, and prohibits them from stepping outside with a gun, even onto their porches or in their garages. Before that, Chicago had the strictest gun law in the U.S. since 1982.
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On Tuesday, a Chicago woman was shot dead by her former fiance who then turned the gun on himself in southwest suburban Chicago Ridge. On Monday, a 5-year-old boy was playing at home in the West Side Lawndale neighborhood with his twin brother when he was accidentally shot dead with a gun they'd found. Early Sunday morning, a man was killed during a shooting that erupted likely between rival gangs who were just "firing into the crowd" in a Far South Side park. On the same day a 15-year-old was shot dead on the West Side and an 8-year-old boy was nearly killed on the way home from church.
But Daley and police officials have said murder and violent crimes are not on the rise this year, or even for the summer. The young age of the victims and the tragic circumstances of the recent shootings have, however, alarmed the city.
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Witnesses to the most recent incident said two males rode up on bicycles and opened fire on a group of children who were playing. Tanaja Stokes, 8, was shot in the head and killed. Stokes' cousin, Ariana Jones, 7, was also shot and wounded, but is expected to survive.
CBS station WBBM-TV's Susan Carlson said a shrine of teddy bears is now on the porch outside the home in the Roseland neighborhood where the girls were shot.
"I heard gunshots and I ran outside to see if all the kids was OK. When I came out, she was laying there," said Justin Wise, the victim's cousin.
"I tried to come and knock all the kids to the ground," said another cousin, Amos Wise. "And before I got over here to make them get on the ground, my little cousin, I just saw her body drop."
About ten minutes earlier, a street fight reportedly broke out not far away. Patricia Clay, a witness, said about 20 teenagers were in the area and three of them began fighting. She called police and said no one responded until the situation escalated about 10 minutes after her call. Clay said she heard about six shots.
"It almost sounded unreal, like firecracker shots, pow, pow, and then it was pow, pow, pow, pow, real fast," said Clay.
"And then there was a bunch of screaming, about 20 kids that was over there, you could hear all of them yelling and screaming. And I said, oh, my God, I know they didn't just shoot them babies up like that. But when I got over there, it was a much younger baby than I thought was shot."
But witness accounts about what led up to the shooting vary.
"That was a whole different altercation," said Wise. "There wasn't nobody out here but kids, so it was like they meant to shoot at this house at the kids."
The family's home is now riddled with bullet holes.
Police are still investigating whether someone in the home was targeted, or if it was a random gang shooting.
The family said the little girl had just finished her homework Tuesday night and was expecting to go to school Wednesday.
"She just got promoted to the third grade and for her to go out this way, it's a sad sight, man. A sad sight," said Wise.
Last week, Mayor Daley introduced new initiatives to fight crime, although he pointed out that there were 43 murders this July compared to 57 in 2009. There were also six fewer homicides in July than in June, and the number so far this year is running approximately steady with last year.
According to the FBI's crime statistics, there were 458 murders in the city last year, compared to 510 in 2008. (Although New York, with four times as many people, had only 471 in 2009.)
The murder rate was 18 per 100,000 in 2008, higher than the rate of 10 for Los Angeles and 6.3 for New York, but much lower than Philadelphia (23), Detroit (37.4), St. Louis (46.9) and New Orleans (63.6).
Homicides in Chicago have remained on an overall decline since it spiked at 943 in 1992.
The highest homicide total in Chicago history was in 1974, eight years before the handgun ban went into effect, when 970 people were killed.