Updated 06/09/11 5:30 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS)– Family members are speaking out, after two girls, ages 2 and 7, were caught in the crossfire of a gang shooting in the Northwest Side’s Avondale neighborhood.
Around 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, neighbors heard about five gunshots in Avondale Park, in the 3500 block of West School Street.
WBBM Newsradio 780’s Lisa Fielding reports police say a van traveling southbound in an alley near Drake Avenue stopped, and someone got out and fired shots toward the basketball court at the park.
On Thursday morning, the aunt of the 7-year-old girl, identified as Jocelyn Rodriguez, was speaking out.
“It’s been a nightmare for my family,” said Melissa Sanchez. “I’m extremely upset to know, especially that that it’s my niece, and my daughter was there; I can’t even think about it right now. It’s been really hard for everyone.”
Sanchez was about to leave for the hospital when she spoke to CBS 2. She said 7-year-old’s father was with his daughter at the playground when the shooting happened.
Reports say the gunman was targeting men on the basketball court, not the children. But there were several children playing at the time.
A suspect was in custody, but the city’s new top cop says the pressure on the gangs continues.
“It’s going to be ongoing and relentless and we’re not going to tolerate this kind of behavior,” Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said.
Albany Park District police said the 2-year-old girl, who is not related to Jocelyn, was grazed in the head and was in fair condition at Children’s Memorial Hospital.
LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Lisa Fielding reports
Jocelyn was shot in the back and was in serious condition at the hospital, authorities said. Relatives on Thursday said the girl was not expected to need surgery.
When the shooting happened, a community policing meeting was in progress at the Avondale Park field house steps away.
Longtime resident JoAnn Trainer said the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) meeting abruptly came to an end when the shots rang out.
Ald. Ariel Reboyras of the nearby 30th Ward and a police officer were among those at the meeting.
“They told us, ‘Everybody hit the floor,’ and waited a few minutes, and the police officer that was there left the building,” Trainer said. “We looked outside the windows. I’ve seen a gentleman holding a child that had been shot in the back.”
Police and parents ran outside immediately, but it was too late.
Barb Beronski, a friend of the family, was distraught about the shooting.
“I took them to the park when I go to the meeting. The kids are outside with an adult, usually. This should have never, never happened,” Beronski said. “I mean, the shooter – I was watching him right through the window. I was screaming, ‘The kids! The kids!’ Mr. Reboyras is like, ‘Get down! Get down!’ It should have never happened. I couldn’t sleep all night just thinking that this guy, knowing that there’s kids going shooting like this unnecessarily. I hope they catch them. I hope they catch them.”
Neighbor Jessica Ruiz says in the summer, the area is not particularly safe.
“In the summer, the gangbangers come and they have their meeting in the park, so it’s pretty bad now,” she said.
Residents also said they hope to see the basketball court at the park torn down immediately, because of all the gang activity it attracts.
The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.