Chicago firefighter critically wounded in mass shooting improving: 'He smiled yesterday'

Timothy Eiland was walking with his sister, joking and laughing after a surprise birthday party when sounds of gunfire pierced through the cool, evening air Saturday in West Pullman.

As people started to scramble, Elishama Wright, Eiland’s sister, found him "on the ground with blood squirting from his face."

She ducked back into the building in the 300 block of East Kensington Avenue until the shooting stopped then rushed outside to see about her brother and her 15-year-old daughter, who were two of six people shot in the attack.

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Police say the gunmen emerged from a dark gangway and opened fire around 9:30 p.m. and ran off.

Eiland, a Chicago firefighter and father of five, was shot in the face and taken to the University of Chicago Medical Center in critical condition. Wright’s daughter, Divine O’Neal, went to Comer Children’s Hospital in fair condition with a gunshot wound to the arm.

Chicago firefighter Timothy Eiland and her 15-year-old niece Divine O’Neal were among six people wounded in a shooting Saturday evening in West Pullman on the Far South Side. | Provided by family

Wright said her daughter was released from the hospital but remains in a lot of pain, and her brother has been showing signs of improvement. He responds to his name and can move his fingers. He is still unable to speak but reacted to hearing his wife and family over the phone.

"He smiled yesterday," said Wright, who works in payroll for the Chicago Police Department, "Just keep praying."


Wright said her brother is "an awesome fireman, an awesome husband, an awesome friend" and is known for his sense of humor. His father was a firefighter too.

"He was always joking around," she said. "That’s what he was doing when we were out there" at the site of the shooting, she said.