'I forgive you': Mother of 8-year-old Melissa Ortega says community failed gunman who killed her daughter

The mother of 8-year-old Melissa Ortega, who was fatally shot in Little Village Saturday, issued an emotional statement at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

"Words cannot describe the pain I am feeling. On Jan. 22, I lost my greatest treasure in life. I lost my princess. She was the reason why I got up every morning. Everything I did, I did for her," Melissa's mother wrote.

Melissa and her mother moved to the U.S. from Mexico last August to start a better life and to pursue the American Dream.

"We came in search of the American Dream we so famously hear of, but instead, I get to live a nightmare for the rest of my life," the statement from Melissa's mother said.

Melissa was walking with her mother on Saturday in Little Village when a gunman emerged from a nearby alley and opened fire, unleashing a hail of bullets that fatally struck the 8-year-old girl twice in the head and wounded a gang member who was the intended target, a police report shows.

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When the shots rang out, Melissa’s mother recalled running toward a bank when she felt her daughter "go limp," according to the report. That’s when she realized Melissa had been shot twice in the right side of her head.

After officers responded to a ShotSpotter alert and found Melissa at the corner of 26th and Pulaski, paramedics responded and brought her to Stroger Hospital, where she was pronounced dead less than two hours later, according to the report and an official statement from Chicago police.

The intended target, a 29-year-old man, who has been arrested 13 times and convicted of two felonies, was struck twice in the back, the report states. He was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital in critical condition, police said.

On Wednesday, Chicago police announced charges in connection to Melissa's murder.

Police arrested the suspected gunman, a 16-year-old boy, on Tuesday and charged him with one felony count of first-degree murder, one felony count of attempted first-degree murder and two felony counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm in an occupied vehicle.

A 27-year-old man was also arrested in connection to the murder.

Xavier Guzman, 27, is accused of being the getaway driver at the time of the shooting. Guzman is charged with one felony count of first-degree murder and one felony count of attempted first-degree murder. In addition, Guzman has also been charged with aggravated UUW.

Melissa's mother told the gunman in her statement that she believes he is a victim himself.

MORE: Murder of 8-year-old Melissa Ortega: Activists demand someone come forward, identify killer

"To the aggressor, I forgive you," the statement said. "You were a victim, too. As a 16-year-old, the community failed you, just like it failed my precious baby. Although I do hope that in the many years you spend in prison, you get time to reflect on your actions, because you took away the most valuable thing I had in my life: my princess, Melissa."

Melissa's mother's statement went on to say that the gun violence in the city needs to end.

"We should be filled with sadness, but anger as well. How is it possible that a little girl dies in broad daylight? How is it possible that we can send men to Mars, but we can't fix the gun violence in our city? Let Melissa be the last child who dies from gun violence in this neighborhood," the statement said.


She also urged Chicago community leaders and Mayor Lori Lightfoot to continue to take action in order to stop senseless killings.

"No mother should have to bury their own child. Violence shouldn't be something we grow accustomed to. As a community, we failed Melissa. As a city and state, we failed Melissa. As a nation, we failed Melissa," Melissa's mother said.