CHICAGO (FOX 32/Sun-Times) - A stray bullet hit a 6-year-old girl who was sitting on her front porch Tuesday afternoon in the West Englewood neighborhood, leaving her in critical condition.
As Tacarra Morgan sat with her mom and grandmother on the front steps of her grandparents’ home in the 6000 block of South Paulina Street about 1 p.m., a shooting began to unfold a block north.
Someone in a white sport utility vehicle opened fire on a group of people standing in the 5900 block of South Paulina, CPD First Deputy Supt. John Escalante said from the scene of the crime.
Several people from the targeted group began running south. The shooter from the white SUV pursued the group and again opened fire.
“Shots were fired southbound, and unfortunately this poor little girl just happened to be out in front of her house,” Escalante said.
"I picked her up and said man we got to go to the hospital now and I was taking her to the car, putting her in the car and police said, no don' t do that because you might hurt her even more," said uncle Anthony Morris.
As of 4:30 p.m., Tacarra was out of surgery and in critical “but stable” condition, police said.
“If you’re the average citizen sitting at home and this doesn’t make you angry, then I don’t know what will because a 6-year old playing on her porch should not have been a victim of this senseless gun violence,” Escalante said.
“Obviously we’re looking at this as possibly and probably gang-related but still working on the identifiers of what gangs were involved,” he said.
The girl’s grandfather, Arthur Morris, didn’t hear the shooting. He had just stepped inside to retrieve a wrench from the basement so he could fix his grandson’s bike.
But he did hear a commotion as he came back upstairs.
“Everyone was saying, ‘Get down. Get down. They’re shooting,’ ” recalled Morris, who disregarded the warning and rushed outside — but the block was quiet again.
Moments later, with bullet holes in the front window and family members still seeking cover on the ground, Tacarra spoke up.
“She said, ‘I’ve been shot’ and pulled up her blouse and her intestines were coming out,” Morris said.
“I wish it had been me in place of my 6-year-old granddaughter,” Morris said.
"I just heard a lot of shots going off and I was in the house at the time and we all just ran to the back because this is a wooden house and we know bullets can come through the window, you know, hit the kids," Kayla Johnson said.
Morris mused about what he would do if he found out the identity of the shooter.
“He shot my grandbaby. This family, the Morris family, don’t bother nobody. I’m 76 years old. I’ve never spent a night or a day in jail. I don’t mess with drugs. I ain’t never had a reefer rolled up in my hands to smoke because I hate anybody that mess with that s – – -,” said Morris, a retired steelworker.
“Whatever my family needs, I survive and get it. I survive and take care of my family and myself.”
Detectives were trying to determine if a police camera mounted steps from where the shooting occurred captured images of the crime.
It’s possible two other cars traveling behind the SUV may have been involved in the shooting, Escalante said.
Relatives said Tacarra is a bubbly kid who loves jumping rope, riding her bike and acting like she was older than 6.
“We called her ‘Mommy’ because she think she’s the big sister, but she’s the little sister,” said her uncle, Anthony Morris.
Tacarra has three older brothers. Her mother used to work as a maid at a Ramada Inn, but now she looks after her kids full time, Anthony Morris said. Tacarra’s father works as a forklift operator, he said.
"This is unacceptable. This is a child, like any other child in the city of Chicago who should be able to enjoy a warm summer day, play in front of her house and play on her porch with her family," Escalante added.
All told, police counted at least 43 shell casing markers in the street, which is a startling reminder to the Alderman Ray Lopez this could have been much worse.
"Those are 43 opportunities that people could have lost their lives in my neighborhood. Everyone of those bullets could have had the possibility of killing someone in my ward," Lopez said.
"It's sad thinking about people shooting like that, shooting innocent people, to me that's senseless," Anthony Morris said.
On Tuesday evening, Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson issued a statement while in Washington, D.C.
“The level of gun violence on the south and west sides of our city is absolutely unacceptable, and it’s appalling when our children are caught in the crossfire of individuals who have no regard for human life,” Johnson said in the statement. “To safeguard our neighborhoods and our children, it is imperative that we establish a culture of accountability for repeat gun offenders in Chicago and hold them responsible for senseless gun crime.”