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Baby Dies After Woodlawn Shooting; ‘Senseless, Despicable Act’

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Jonylah Watkins was shot on the South Side. (Facebook)

Jonylah Watkins was shot on the South Side. (Facebook)

Updated 03/12/13 – 10:00 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – A 6-month-old girl died Tuesday morning, hours after she and her father were shot multiple times while he was changing her diaper in the family van in the Woodlawn neighborhood — a crime the mayor described as “a senseless, despicable act.”

Jonylah Watkins died at the University of Chicago’s Comer Children’s Hospital on Tuesday, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office. She had been in the hospital’s intensive care unit, after undergoing surgery for multiple gunshot wounds on Monday.

Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said Tuesday that the shooting is very likely gang related, but police don’t have a strong witness at this point. Investigators believe Jonathan Watkins was targeted, and Jonylah was an innocent victim of warring gangs.

“This is another tragedy, because no child – and certainly not an infant – should be the victim of gang violence,” McCarthy said. “There are going to be good days, and there’s gonna be bad days, and today is obviously a bad day.”


Rev. Corey Brooks, who was acting as a family spokesman, said Jonylah sustained injuries to her lungs, liver, intestines, leg, and shoulder.

Jonylah and her father, Jonathan Watkins, were shot Monday afternoon as Watkins was standing in the open passenger’s door to a minivan, changing Jonylah’s diaper in the 6500 block of South Maryland Avenue. A gunman approached him from behind, and opened fire.

Watkins was shot in the side and the left buttock, and suffered a graze wound to the face, police said. He was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He was in serious but stable condition on Tuesday.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel seemed frustrated that successful efforts to curb gun violence in some neighborhoods can’t keep shocking crimes like Jonylah’s shooting from occurring.

“You can continue to see progress made in the early days of March on reducing homicides and shootings; and then you get a senseless, despicable act of violence like this, that is just heart-breaking to any adult,” Emanuel said.

The mayor said he won’t rest, or let anyone else rest, until neighborhoods like Woodlawn are as safe for their residents as every other part of the city. He said everyone needs to do their part.

McCarthy said investigators have not been able to get any cooperating witnesses, and are hoping to get answers from Watkins once he’s able to speak to them.

“The father obviously is in a lot of distress. As he comes around, we’ll see how much he cooperates, but right now we don’t have one individual,” McCarthy said.

The silence is frustrating to police and community leaders who are pleading with the public to come forward with any information.

“We can no longer harbor those who create these kind of offenses in our communities,” said 20th Ward Alderman Willie Cochran.

Their cries were echoed by a mother, who’s gained national attention for her fight against violence.

“I feel for the family. I feel for the mother,” said Cleo Pendelton

Cleo Pendleton’s daughter Hadiya was mistakenly shot by a gang member. She says the community responded with hundreds of tips that helped police find the shooter and they should do the same for Jonylah.

When asked what she would say to a person who has information on the killing, Pendleton said, “What are you going to request when it’s your child? What would you want done for you? Why not be proactive and do it for somebody else? Talk, because for as long as you’re not talking this individual is still on the streets.”

Brooks choked back tears as he lamented the repeated killings of teens and children in gun violence in Chicago.

“Having experiences like this over, over, and over again – and seeing little kids – is not a good thing,” he said. “This is outrageous, it’s just insane.”

A total of $11,000 in reward money was being offered for information leading to an arrest in the case.

Jonylah’s grandmother, Maryann Young, said, “I just want whoever that did this; it was very cowardly, and to turn themselves in.”

Police said the gunman fled across an open lot, jumped into a blue minivan, and fled the scene. Police had only a vague description of the gunman.

“The city of Chicago should be outraged that, in our city, a 6-month-old baby could be shot and killed. It’s horrific, and for us not to speak out, and for us not to say anything is just as horrific,” Brooks said.

This was Jonylah’s second brush with gun violence. Her mother was shot in the knee when she was 8 months pregnant with Jonylah, just a few blocks from the scene of Monday’s shooting.

Community activists have provided an 800 number where you can leave tips. That number is 1-800 883-5785.

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