CHICAGO (CBS) — The day after 9-year-old Antonio Smith was shot to death in the back yard of an apartment building in the south side Grand Crossing neighborhood, several hundred people filled the yard Thursday night to offer prayers and demand action.
Antonio’s father, Kawata Hodges, fought back tears as he said his “little homey” was gone.
“I’ve lived in Chicago all my life and I had some hard times coming up, but I never that this would be the hardest time in my life and it is,” Hodges said. “Chicago hurt me today. I feel like I was let down.”
Antonio’s great aunt, Dorothy Woods, said it is time for Chicagoans to get on their knees – to pray for the shooter and to pray for the bloodshed to end.
Rev. Michael Pfleger, who organized the vigil, said Antonio’s death was an execution, no mere murder.
Pfleger and other ministers and community leaders have raised $13,500 as a reward for information leading to the capture of the boy’s killer.
“It was not a drive-by. This was an executed direct hit on a child,” he said, turning his direction to the killer. “Whatever the reason, whatever the message you were trying to send, we got your message – and you’d better get our message. You’re not going to kill children in this city and go back home and sit and do nothing. You’re not going to kill children and get by with this. If you kill a child, you are a terrorist in our neighborhood.”
Pfleger then turned his attention to the Grand Crossing community.
“We want you brought in. We want you turned in. We want you locked up, because if you would kill a nine-year-old, you’d kill anyone, anytime, anywhere,” he said. “You have no value. You have no boundaries. You have no soul.”
He said the money being offered for the arrest of Antonio’s killer is no mere reward, but a bounty, and told those who know who did it to talk.
Pfleger offered the first reward for the arrest and conviction of the killer earlier Thursday, $5,000. Activist Andrew Holmes offered an additional $1,000 before the vigil. By the time the vigil was over, the figure had grown to $13,500, with additional pledges of $5,000 by the Rev. Corey Brooks, $2,000 by the Rev. Ira Acree and $500 by Bamani Obidele of the Greater Roseland Community Committee.
Area Central Detective Sgt. Shawn McGavock spoke on behalf of the Chicago Police Department, asking those who believe they know something that could help detectives to call his unit.
Tips are being taken at (312) 747-8380.