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Detectives Following 'Promising Leads' In Shooting Death Of 8-Year-Old Melissa Ortega, Mayor Says

CHICAGO (CBS) -- "She sought to achieve the American Dream but was instead given American Violence." That was the message on Monday from the family of 8-year Melissa Ortega, a recent Mexican immigrant who was shot and killed on Saturday, the innocent victim of a gang-related shooting in Little Village.

It comes as the mayor and police say detectives are following "promising leads" in the case.

CBS 2's Tara Molina reports Chicago Police have announced they are saturating Little Village with extra officers in an effort to prevent retaliation as detectives seek help in bringing Melissa's killer to justice.

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

Her family says she wanted to learn English, play in the snow, make a Build-A-Bear, and make TikTok dances with her friends.

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

"She sought to achieve the American Dream but was instead given American Violence," her family said in a statement on Monday.

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Her school also sent a letter to families on Monday, grieving Melissa's murder, and announcing counselors would be available for students this week.

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"We need your help," CPD Area 4 Deputy Chief Patrina Wines said Monday morning as Chicago Police put another message out asking anyone with information about the shooting to contact an anonymous tip line.

Tips can be provided by calling 833-408-0069, or online at There reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to an arrest, and up to $15,000 for information leading to a conviction.

Police have said the gunfire Melissa and her mother tried to escape was part of a gang war; the shots meant for a 26-year-old man who was nearby. He was shot and critically wounded.

Monday morning, Mayor Lori 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.

Lightfoot also provided a brief update on the investigation into the shooting.

"I can't get into a lot of specific details, but I can tell you the detectives have been literally working 24/7, that there are some promising leads, and I hope that we'll have a more substantive announcement soon," Lightfoot said.

Chicago Police Supt. David Brown also said detectives have "very strong leads" in the case, but declined to confirm or deny published reports that shooting was caught on video, and that the footage shows Melissa was in clear view of the shooter when he opened fire, and that he did not care the girl was in the line of fire.

The superintendent said police have "very delicate" information on the case, and are speaking to a number of people who are cooperating in the investigation, so he did not want to release any details regarding evidence in the case.

However, he said the department won't rest until they solve the case.

"We will be relentless in our efforts to pursue any and all gangs involved in Melissa's tragic, tragic murder," he said.

"These last few days have been really, really hard for the family of Melissa, the neighborhood, the Little Village neighborhood, all of the residents, and for the men and women of the Chicago Police Department," Brown added. "It's just unspeakable to lose the life of an 8-year-old, a little girl, under these tragic circumstances, or any circumstances for that matter, and we owe it to Melissa and her family and to this city to hold every person involved accountable, and we must seek justice for every Chicagoan living under the threat of gun violence every day."

Meantime, CPD Chief of Patrol Brian McDermott said the department has moved additional officers to the Little Village area to target the involved gangs and try to prevent retaliatory shootings in the wake of Melissa's murder.

"Specialized units from across the city will saturate the area in the coming days and weeks to vigorously address the gang conflict that caused Melissa's death," McDermott said.

Melissa Ortega's uncle, Saul Galvez, responded to those statements from police by saying officers patrolling the area now isn't enough. Galvez said police should be doing that all the time, and "resources should be invested to the community to prevent innocent kids from dying."

Residents gathered Monday to advocate for access to mental health services what they described as a cycle of violence.

"We need help from our city... so that our children will not be in the cycle I grew up in," Chella Garcia said. Members of the Little Village City Council said residents live in fear of violence and deportation, leading to a fear of seeking help.

"I am outraged, an 8-year-old child got taken away from us. No one is here to support us," another advocate, who has an 8-year-old sister, said. "They [the youth] need resources and mentors."

Melissa Ortega's family plans to take her back to Mexico, where she will be buried in her hometown.

Their ask for help in making that happen on GoFundMe has already raised more than $53,000, more than double its goal of $20,000.

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