2 questioned after girl, 7, shot in the head

William Lee (Chicago Tribune)
March 18, 2010

When shots echoed across their South Side street on a sunny Wednesday afternoon, an 11-year-old girl tried to pull her little sister from the path of the flying bullets.

But Desaree Sanders, 7, was struck in the head, an unintended victim of what police say may have been a gang-related shooting.

Authorities late Wednesday were questioning two males, 16 and 19, about the shooting in the South Chicago neighborhood that an off-duty police officer witnessed, according to a source and officials.

Relatives said Desaree was riding her silver scooter outside her grandmother’s home in the 8000 block of South Manistee Avenue, enjoying the nice weather with her grandmother and her two sisters, Destinee, 11, and Gina, 2, said Brenda Ware, a relative.

Chicago police say the gunman opened fire on two young men running past the little girl, who inadvertently crossed into the path of the gunfire. As the shots rang out, Destinee tried unsuccessfully to hold her sister back, Ware said.

The off-duty officer called the shooting in and followed the vehicle for several blocks, Chicago police Cmdr. Eric Carter said.

The two teen suspects were found in a car pulled over near 69th Street and Vernon Avenue, according to a law enforcement source.

The gunman is believed to have fired a semi-automatic, police said. Police are also questioning the apparent intended targets, Carter said. Police suspect the shooting may be gang-related.

While police worked to determine whether the two in custody were involved, Desaree’s family gathered to pray for the girl’s speedy recovery and make sense of the tragedy.

Desaree is a first-grade student at Bradwell School, 7736 S. Burnham Ave., said Monique Bond, a Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman.

Ware, a registered nurse, said doctors called the girl’s prognosis “good” but said that they are worried about pressure in her brain.

They also were worried that she may lose an eye. There were about 50 family members gathered at the hospital praying for the girl’s recovery Wednesday evening, she said.

She was shot in the upper right side of her head, Ware said. Doctors found fragments of bullet and shattered bone when they operated, Ware said, adding that the girl was heavily sedated.

“The doctor is very optimistic that she might end up being just the way she was prior to this,” said Ware.

“This will not end with Desaree. It’s a sad thing, but it happens far too often, too many times and the weather hasn’t even gotten warm yet,” said Ware. “You hear about (gun violence), but today it hit close to home because this is my family.”

A neighbor who lives across the street from where the shooting took place said she ran outside after hearing gunshots and screams. She said the girl was lying in a pool of blood on the sidewalk next to a silver scooter.

“I saw her mother crying,” said Lucy, who asked that her last name be withheld. “She was saying, ‘My baby, my baby, my baby.'”

Police taped off several blocks around where the shooting occurred as they canvassed the area for evidence and questioned residents.

James Wilk, who lives nearby, was walking out of his house when he heard gunshots. Wilk, 21, said he turned around and saw the little girl fall.

“I was in complete shock,” said Wilk. “I was terrified.”

Wilk, a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said gang activity and drive-by shootings are common on the street.

Tribune reporters Jeremy Gorner and Annie Sweeney contributed to this report.

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