The girl was trick-or-treating with her dad at 5:30 p.m. in Chicago’s West Side neighbourhood when police say a gang-related dispute put them in the line of fire.
According to Chicago police, a suspected member of the Latin Kings gang ran into a group of trick-or-treaters to escape several men who were chasing him. One of those men, who was reportedly wearing a mask, fired several shots into the group while yelling a gang slogan, police said.
The bullets struck the girl in the lower neck and upper chest, according to the Chicago Tribune. The intended target was hit in the hand.
“The girl’s father was screaming: ‘My little girl’s been shot!'” witness Lali Lara told the Tribune. Lara, 25, was working at a nearby cellphone store when she heard the shots and rushed to the girl’s aid.
The girl was wearing what appeared to be a ladybug or bumblebee costume, Lara said.
Lara says she held the girl’s hand and tried to keep her conscious while they waited for an ambulance to arrive.
“I was pressing on her and calling her name so she won’t close her eyes,” she said. “She was looking at me, and I was calling her name. She was holding my hand for three minutes and then she let me go.”
The ambulance arrived within five minutes and the child was rushed to hospital in critical condition, a spokesperson for the hospital told the Washington Post.
Police told the Post that the girl was not the intended target of the shooting. They said the actual target, a 30-year-old man, was taken to hospital in stable condition. He is reportedly not cooperating with police.
A 30-second witness video obtained by NBC Chicago shows several men running down the street. They stop at a corner just out of sight. Seven gunshots can be heard, then the men run back toward the camera and past it. Several of them appear to be wearing masks.
Police say there is also surveillance camera footage that was captured near the scene of the crime.
No arrests had been made as of Friday morning.
“This is unacceptable,” Sgt. Rocco Alioto told the Associated Press. “A seven-year-old girl that was trick-or-treating with her family had to get shot because a group of guys want to shoot another male.”
Gun violence has plagued Chicago for the last several years. There were approximately 557 murders in the city last year, according to official data reported by NBC. That’s down from a high point of 762 in 2016.
Police spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi condemned the shooting in a tweet, calling it a “senseless incident.”