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16-Year-Old Boy, 27-Year-Old Xavier Guzman Charged In Murder Of 8-Year-Old Melissa Ortega

By Tara Molina, Jackie Kostek, Mugo Odigwe, and Yolanda Perdomo

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A 16-year-old boy and a 27-year-old man are charged in connection with the shooting death of eight-year-old Melissa Ortega over the weekend.

Chicago Police Superintendent 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 occupied vehicle."

Police said Melissa and her mother were walking down the street in Little Village on Saturday, when the 16-year-old got out of a car parked in an alley, and started shooting at a rival gang member. That 26-year-old man was shot in the back, and Melissa was shot in the head.

The teen then got back into the car with accused the getaway driver, 27-year-old Xavier Guzman, and the two fled the scene. Guzman also has been arrested and charged facing one felony count of first degree murder and one felony count of attempted first degree murder.

Xavier Guzman 27 (002)
(Credit: CPD)

"This was a precious little girl. It is unacceptable that she is the latest Chicagoans to fall victim to simplest senseless gang violence," Brown said. "Our city has been shaken and no one can make sense of this tragedy."

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.

"The murder of eight year old Melissa Ortega is horrific. Melissa is an American dream that has seamlessly insensitively been taken from all of us are 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."

Matt DeMateo with New Life Church, has been with the family since the child died. He read a statement from the girl's mother.

"Words cannot describe the pain I am feeling. (On) January 22, I lost my greatest treasure in life. I lost my princess. She was the reason why I got up every morning everything I did I did for her immigrated from Mexico six months ago. We were filled with dreams and had high aspirations imagined a better life here came in search of the American dream we so famously here have run instead I get to live a nightmare for the rest of my life."

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.

Brown said: "Our investigation determined that three reported gang members are standing on the corner of Komensky (Avenue). 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."

CBS 2 late Wednesday obtained the official police report filed after Melissa's murder. It offered some disturbing details.

The report said detectives found a total of 13 spent shell casings in the area of the shooting.

Also, Melissa's mother told police she was walking on 26th Street from Pulaski Road when she heard gunfire and attempted to run into the bank – when she suddenly felt her daughter's body go limp right in front of the bank.

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.

"Everyone involved in this incident came forward to help us with information to break this case. So if the community can come together in unique ways, should we have behind the scenes. But I think the public aspect of this press conference is important to convey a message only to the community but also to offenders We are working as a team to bring you to justice."

Mayor Lori Lightfoot also expressed her sadness over the death of the eight-year-old.

"It's our obligation neighbors, and my obligation as mayor, to work with stakeholders and leaders of little village to bring peace there once and for all. This isn't a problem that just arose on Saturday," Lightfoot said. "And it's way past time that we unite. We come together and we bring peace to this beautiful, vibrant community of Little Village."

The family of Melissa walked into the Medical Examiner's office Sunday to identify the body of the 8-year-old.

"I heard the mother screaming for help," said Oscar Guevara, a Little Village resident.

Guevara was in the middle of 26th Street when he heard six to seven shots ring out. He found Melissa on the ground and called 911.

"I had [a] cover, and we put it over her to keep her warm. But there was really nothing we could do," he said.

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.

RELATED: In Wake Of Shooting That Killed 8-Year-Old Melissa Ortega, Community Leader Calls For Mental Health Clinics, Funding To Prevent Crime In Little Village

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."

Monday morning, Mayor Lightfoot offered her condolences, and thanked the community for surrounding Melissa's mother with love as she grieves the loss of her daughter.

"Losing a child under any circumstances is horrifying, and the circumstances in which this family lost this precious, precious child is almost unspeakable," Lightfoot said.

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