Two women involved with a group called Mothers Against Senseless Killings were shot dead Friday on a South Side Chicago block where moms gather to help curb gun violence. Police say they don't believe the two young mothers were the intended targets.
The deaths of Chantel Grant, 25, and Andrea Stoudemire, 35, in the Englewood neighborhood served as a grim reminder of the kind of violence that led them to participate in neighborhood activities organized by Mothers Against Senseless Killings. The anti-violence group launched five years ago following the shooting death of another young mother at the same corner. The group began with moms "occupying" the corner, reports the Chicago Sun-Times — hanging out and offering food and counseling for youth in response to violence in the community.
"That's why we're out here seven days a week ... trying to create a safe place where people can learn to be neighbors and not kill each other," said the group's founder, Tamar Manasseh.
The gunfire on Friday night was meant for a man who is affiliated with a Chicago street gang and recently got out of prison, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.
The 58-year-old man, who was struck in the arm in the shooting and whose name hasn't been released, is not cooperating with police, Guglielmi said.
"We have no information to suggest they were the intended targets," he said Tuesday, adding that police are still seeking leads in the case. No arrests have been made.
Manasseh said she's not willing to accept the notion that Grant, a mother of four, and Stoudemire, who had three children, were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"They killed mothers on a corner where mothers sit every day," Manasseh said. "You don't have mothers killed in a place that is sacred to mothers and not take that as a message."
The drive-by shooting followed what has become a familiar pattern in Chicago, where more people are fatally shot than in any other city in the U.S. Though homicides have decreased in recent years and are on a pace to drop again this year, police statistics show there have been 281 in 2019 as of July 28. And during the weekend in which the two women died, 48 people were shot in the city, nine of them fatally, reports CBS Chicago. The dead reportedly included a three-year-old child who was killed in an apparent gun accident.
A 23-year-old woman was shot in the leg, back and face on June 25 by someone in a black vehicle in the same block where Grant and Stoudemire were gunned down, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.The woman survived, and police said there is no indication that shooting was connected to the one that killed the two mothers.
Grant and Stoudemire were found lying on the sidewalk after a spray of bullets came from inside a blue SUV, police said.
Manasseh said the women had been on the corner for hours Friday handing out food to other mothers and keeping watch over a vacant lot the group has turned into a play area for neighborhood children. She said Grant and Stoudemire had finished up for the day and had begun walking to a store to get food for themselves and their children when they were shot.
"They can't even walk to the store without getting killed," said Manasseh. "They were killed for parenting."
Manasseh called the women's deaths "terrifying" and "heartbreaking."
"I haven't slept because I am trying to figure out how we can stop this," Manasseh told the Chicago Sun-Times. "Who's next? I just keep thinking, 'Who's next?'
The group has started a GoFundMe campaign aiming to raise $5,000 for a reward for information in the case. By Wednesday morning, it had raised more than $16,000.
"The murder of a woman brought us to our corner on 75th & Stewart so there's no way we're going to let the murder of more moms drive us away," the fundraising page says. "We deserve to live without fear and the young women, Chantel Grant and Andrea Stoudemire who were torn from their children families tonight, deserve justice."
This story has been updated to clarify the women's role with Mothers Against Senseless Killings.