CHICAGO HEIGHTS, Ill. (CBS) — A 3-year-old girl was in critical condition Tuesday afternoon after being caught in gunfire in Chicago Heights.

The shooter got away.

As CBS 2’s Chris Tye reported, the girl’s mother was driving with the 3-year-old when she thought she heard tires popping. Instead it was gunfire.

Her daughter was struck in the side of the head and had to be airlifted to the hospital.

The shooting happened shortly after 6 a.m. On Tuesday evening, the hunt for the shooter was still on, and whether the girl was the target remained an open question.

The gunfire happened on the 1600 block of School Street – one hour before buses rolled for Washington McKinley School on the very same block.

The girl was in the back seat of her car while her mother drove. After hearing what turned out to be gunshots, she then heard her daughter starting to cry in the back seat, and saw blood coming from her head.

Chicago Heights police said officers responded to multiple calls of shots fired. A short time later, police learned a wounded 3-year-old girl was being driven to Franciscan Health Olympia Fields Hospital.

“And this happened at what, at 6 o’clock? You know, at 7 o’clock in the morning, I’m bringing my little girl to school. So they should alert the parents. I’m like, you know what? Be careful. Be careful because you do not know – because if the guy’s around here, you don’t know,” said Juan Puente Jr.

Police late Tuesday did not know who the shooter was. But Pamela Walker knows well who that little girl was destined to be.

“I promise you – if you know her, you would fall in love with her,” Walker said.

Walker cared for the little girl until last year, and through Tuesday night, she still had one central question.

“I don’t understand who would do something like this to a baby,” she said. “This is a baby.”

The incident sent chills through the Washington McKinley school community.

Puente’s granddaughter is in kindergarten at the school – where week three of the school year is teaching tragic lessons to the youngest of learners.

“At 7 o’clock in the morning, you know, don’t think about anything like that. You know, you don’t think like that, it’s going to happen,” he said.

The girl has been airlifted to the University of Chicago’s Comer Children’s Hospital, where she is in critical condition, police said.

The South Suburban Major Crimes Task force is stepping in to help, Chicago Heights police.

Parents say they’ve always felt safe in the community. But on Tuesday night, that feeling was being tested.

Anyone with information on the shooting should call Chicago Heights detectives at 708-756-6422.