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Teen Charged In 8-Year-Old Melissa Ortega's Murder Has Criminal Record For Carjacking And Gun Charges

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The teenager charged with the murder of 8-year-old Melissa Ortega has been in trouble with the law before, having faced previous carjacking and gun charges.

The CBS 2 Investigators have learned from law enforcement sources – at the time the 16-year-old was arrested for killing Melissa Ortega, he was on probation for a 2021 aggravated carjacking. And we're told this juvenile has also been arrested on a gun charge.

A spokesperson for the Cook County State's Attorney's office declined to comment Wednesday night on the teen's criminal background.

"Any available information regarding the minor's background will be provided to the court at the bail hearing tomorrow," State's Attorney's office spokeswoman Tandra Simonton said.

So far, the 16-year-old accused gunman has not been identified, but is due to appear in court on Thursday, to face charges as an adult.

Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said the teen was charged with one felony count of first-degree murder and felony count of attempted first-degree murder and two felony counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm in the Little Village shooting that killed Melissa as she was walking with her mother on Saturday.

Also charged is 27-year-old Xavier Guzman, who police say was the driver in that shooting. Guzman is facing one felony count of first-degree murder and one felony count of attempted first-degree murder.

Melissa and her mother emigrated from Mexico in August.

"This is an eight-year-old Latina who could've been someone," said activist Keith Thornton. "She came from Mexico to have a better life."

Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx said both will be in bond court on Thursday and that teen will be charged as an adult. Foxx said the 16-year-old charged has a juvenile record, but did not elaborate.

"The murder of eight year old Melissa Ortega is horrific. Melissa is an American dream that has seamlessly and senselessly been taken from all of us while merely walking down the street on a Saturday afternoon with her mother," Foxx said. "So Melissa's mom and her family, I have no words that are of comfort to you. But I'm committed to getting you justice."

A third grader at Emiliano Zapata Academy, Melissa was new to Chicago – here since August – and excited to build a better life with her mother, both from Mexico.

But on her way from the bank to get a hamburger on Saturday afternoon, hand-in-hand with her mom at 26th Street and Pulaski Road in Little Village, gang violence stole all of that from her – and her from her family.

Brown said the investigation began Saturday afternoon in Little Village when officers responded to a ShotSpotter alert call just before 3:00 p.m.

"Our investigation determined that three reported gang members are standing on the corner of Kaminsky. Moments later, an individual emerged south of their location near an alley and fired a handgun. That's when Melissa and her mother were crossing the street and shot in the head literally shot in the head," Brown said, who added another man was the intended target.

" (A) 29-year-old male, the intended target of the gunman, was also struck back as he attempted to run from the gunfire. Detectives subsequently identified and tracked the vehicle used in the shooting using pod video cameras and private surveillance video as well as license plate reader technology."

Police have said the gunfire Melissa and her mother tried to escape was part of a gang war. A family member told CBS 2's Jackie Kostek that Melissa's mother is just not ready to talk about her daughter yet. That family member did say that she hopes no one ever has to go through what she is right now.

Brown said that CPD, the mayor's office and the state's attorney's office worked together to set the charges but the Little Village community was also instrumental.

The family released a statement Sunday, describing Melissa as a girl who wanted to experience Chicago snow, get to make her own stuffed animal at Build-a-Bear and make TikTok dances with her friends.

Baltazar Enriquez, president of the Little Village Community Council, told CBS 2's Jim Williams and Marie Saavedra Monday that his organization is asking for federal help – and in particular mental health clinics in the community.

"We're calling on our congressman, Jesus Garcia, to come and assist the community – bring us federal funding. We've been asking for mental health clinics here in Little Village, because our community is traumatized. Our community has been traumatized. Our children are traumatized," Enriquez said. "So what happens when you are a mother and they kill your child? Where do you run to? Where do you seek help? There's none of these centers here in Little Village."

Enriquez said he is also calling on Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. JB Pritzker to help bring the funds needed for the community to develop the tools to fight and prevent crime.

"Mental health is a very important issue, and we see the violence in our community and our children being normalized to murder, to death, it's just normal. It's OK. So it shouldn't be OK. So we're fighting for our children to have a place where they would go and get the services that they need," he said. "And we need it now. We don't need it tomorrow or next week. We need it now."

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