Updated 07/05/13 – 11:50 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – Dozens of people have been shot this long holiday weekend, including two boys who were just trying to enjoy family parties for the 4th of July.
A 7-year-old boy and a 5-year-old boy were critically wounded in separate shootings while out with their families at city parks Thursday night and early Friday.
“The 4th of July turned into a tragedy for these young men, and it’s just a shame,” said community activist Andrew Holmes, outside Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where both boys were in critical condition Friday morning.
“Both of these young men are fighting for their life, and we’re just asking that the community keeps them in their prayers,” Holmes added. “Most of all, we ask them that if anybody knows anything – who these shooters are – we need to turn them in, and turn them in right away.”
The first shooting happened at about 7:30 p.m. Thursday, at Cole Park in the Chatham neighborhood.
Seven-year-old Christian Lyles was at a family picnic, with a group of 60 to 70 other people, near 85th Street and King Drive. Police said two suspects approached the family, and one of them opened fire. Christian was shot in the neck, and the bullet exited the back of his neck, according to his father.
The two suspects then got into a vehicle and fled the scene, police said.
Holmes said the Christian’s grandmother told him the family had noticed a car circling the area before the shooting.
“They watched the vehicle go by numerous amounts of times, then they started watching this vehicle a little closer, and all of a sudden a person discharged their weapon into the park, and the child was struck,” Holmes said. “What we’re doing now is asking the homeowners to turn over the video surveillance cameras, and it’s a lot of them. That may be the key, but most important, the key is the people that know who these perpetrators are that shot this kid.”
Christian was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn in critical condition, but his father said he was improving Friday morning, and could be released sometime Friday afternoon.
The park where he was shot is across the street from where Chicago Police Officer Thomas Wortham IV was shot and killed three years ago, in front of his parents’ house.
Later, around 12:30 a.m. Friday, 5-year-old Jaden Donald was shot in the stomach and the leg while out watching a fireworks display with his mother, his three siblings, and a group of friends in Cooper Park in the West Pullman neighborhood.
His mother, Jasmine Dillon Donald, said she thought she heard more fireworks going off, then saw a man standing across the street, shooting into the park.
“Everybody ran. The other kids got down. My son tried to run to me. I was running towards him, but as soon as I got to him is when he fell,” she said.
She estimated 20 to 25 children were in the park when the gunman opened fire.
“Why would you do something like this? Why? All these innocent people and kids out here, why would you do something like that? I just don’t understand,” she said. “It makes me want to go in the house with my kids, and never come back out.”
Her son and two adults were wounded.
“It’s crazy,” she said. “I never even dreamed something like this would happen. When you see stuff like this on the news, you never really actually think that it’s going to happen to you and your child.”
She drove her son to Metro South Medical Center, and he was later transferred to Christ, where doctors removed his spleen, his pancreas, and one of his kidneys.
“They’re going step-by-step. They’re dealing with the main wound right now. They haven’t even gotten to the, what they called the superficial wound, the one to the leg,” she said.
No one was in custody for either shooting.
Holmes urged local residents to come forward with information about the shootings.
“Most of all, the community, their parents, and the people who know who these shooters are has a responsibility to turn these perpetrators in,” he said.
Jaden’s mother said there are surveillance cameras in Cooper Park, so she hopes they caught the gunman on video.