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Toddler In 'Grave' Condition After Being Shot In Face On Lake Shore Drive Downtown

CHICAGO (CBS)-- A toddler was left in "grave" condition after he was shot on Lake Shore Drive downtown in the midday hours Tuesday, in what police called a road rage incident.

One person was being questioned late Tuesday afternoon in connection with the incident.

As CBS 2's Chris Tye reported, the 21-month-old boy was a passenger in a car shot at over the course of two blocks on northbound Lake Shore Drive near Roosevelt Road along Grant Park.

The car was shot at over the course of two blocks on northbound Lake Shore Drive near Roosevelt Road. Police said shots flew along the Drive for two blocks between 9th and 11th streets.

"I just heard her say her baby was shot," a witness said.

The child was shot in the face. Police radio communications indicated he was shot once in the temple and once in the jaw.

The white sedan carrying the child ended up crashing on Lake Shore Drive near Monroe Drive.

Chicago police spokesman Tom Ahern said the shooting by sparked by road rage.

The conflict may have begun when one driver was not allowed to change lanes by another driver, CBS 2's Tye reported.

Police said the car with the child crashed in the same block just after 11 a.m. The car with the shooter fled the scene, Ahern said.

A female passenger was seen getting out of the vehicle with the toddler, police said, and was transported by a Good Samaritan to Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

"Unbelievable," the witness added. "Just innocent people - innocent people just going about their day and something like this happens."

The child was transferred to Lurie Children's Hospital in critical condition. In a statement, Dr. Marcelo Malakooti, MD -- associate chief medical officer and medical director at the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Lurie -- articulated how serious the situation was.

"We can confirm that this afternoon we received a nearly 2 year old male child with a serious gunshot wound. The child sustained a bullet wound to his head and he is in very critical condition currently being treated in our Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. He is requiring full critical care support. We are doing all we can do for this little boy and thank everyone for their concern."

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday afternoon, Malakooti said the boy's condition was "grave." He suffered a gunshot wound to his brain and required a ventilator, Malakooti said.

"It's certainly hard to imagine that a young child -- an infant really -- has sustained a gunshot wound," Malakooti said.

But doctors said the boy is remarkably resilient.

"Because of the gunshot wounds to the brain, we just treat through the brain injury to help support him through brain injury and head injury," Malakooti said.

Malakooti emphasized the importance of the Good Samaritan who brought the child to the hospital.

"Luckily, we have traffic patterns and such if a Good Samaritan is bringing them and can get them to the hospital quickly – and with any type of head injury, time is certainly of the essence," he said.

According to Chicago's Office of Emergency Management and Communications, northbound lanes of the Drive from Roosevelt Road to Monroe Drive were closed following the shooting. The road was opened shortly before 2 p.m.

Police said a gun was also found in the victim's family's car, and police were trying to determine what role that may have played as well.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot addressed the shooting Tuesday afternoon. She said she had heard that there was gunfire exchanged between the car carrying the child and the car from which the shot that hit the child was fired.

"I understand that this small child was in a car seat in the back of the car, and they were shooting, going from that car, and coming to that car. That doesn't make any sense to me," Mayor Lightfoot said. "Getting upset over a traffic incident, and whether you can merge or not, that would result in gunfire, is an absurdity to me. So yeah, there's a lot more work that needs to be done."

Mayor Lightfoot expounded further on easy access to guns and blamed it for violence such as that seen on Tuesday.

"More details will come out today, but the fact that so many people can get access to guns, far easier than you can buy a pack of cigarettes, or a six pack of beer makes no sense when we know how dangerous firearms are," Mayor Lightfoot said. "And particularly around children every single day in our city, in our state, in our country deserves to be able to grow up without the fear of coming outside a warm spring day, for fear of gun violence, or worse, being in their home where they feel like they're safe, and having a gun, come through the window, or through the side of a wall."

The mayor continued, "We have got to do a better job as a nation, protecting our young people are elders against gun violence."

Mayor Lightfoot further called for universal background checks for firearms purchases, and identified differing gun laws in various states as partially to blame for gun violence in Chicago.

"Part of the reason that we have so much gun violence in the city of Chicago is you can go right over the border in Indiana to Michigan to Wisconsin, and buy military grade weapon, and any quality one – if you've got the money to be able to pay for it," Mayor Lightfoot said.

She called on the federal government to enact "real meaningful, reasonable gun reform."

"We just need to do better as a country," Mayor Lightfoot said. "We absolutely must respect the Second Amendment law abiding residents, ability to carry on handguns with training and with background checks, but we don't have anything close to any sanity and gun regulation."

Mayor Lightfoot also said she did not want to talk too much about it, but police have identified a suspect and a make and model of a car that was involved. Police later announced one person was being questioned.

Also Tuesday afternoon, community activist Ja'Mal Green said a $5,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the shooter.

"We're talking to folks all throughout the city to say you need to talk to the folks who are n these little gang factions and let them know that this will not be tolerated," Green said.

Green further emphasized that while such violence is out-of-the-ordinary on Lake Shore Drive downtown, it is an ongoing crisis in many city neighborhoods "each and every day."

"We got to have a cease fire here on our young people," Green said. "We can't take this any longer."


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