Wednesday 20 September 2017

Baby girl is shot dead in Chicago's gang war

Jonylah Watkins died in hospital on Tuesday
Jonylah Watkins died in hospital on Tuesday

Tim Walker

CHICAGO'S gang violence has claimed its youngest victim this year, after a six-month-old girl was shot and killed as her father changed her nappy.

The shooting took place on Monday afternoon in the Woodlawn neighbourhood on Chicago's southside, as Jonathan Watkins (29) changed his infant daughter, Jonylah, on the front seat of a minivan.

An attacker approached from behind and fired an automatic pistol, hitting Mr Watkins twice and his daughter five times.

The child was rushed to Comer Children's Hospital at the University of Chicago, where she died of her wounds early on Tuesday morning.

Her father was in a stable condition yesterday. Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said at a press conference that Mr Watkins had a criminal history and was probably affiliated with a local gang.

"He was obviously targeted," said Supt McCarthy. "No child, certainly not an infant, should be a victim of gang violence."

The gunman has not been identified. Police have few leads and locals have reportedly declined to assist them.

"We don't have one individual who's stepping up to help us," Supt McCarthy said.

It was not Jonylah's first brush with gun violence. Her mother, Judy Watkins (20), was shot in the knee while eight months pregnant, just blocks from the murder scene.

'Heartbreaking'

Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, described the murder as "senseless, despicable (and) heartbreaking".

Chicago has come under the spotlight as President Barack Obama pushes for stricter gun control, not least because it is the president's hometown.

Jonylah was treated at the hospital where Hadiya Pendleton (15) died in January. She was shot just days after she had performed with her school band at Mr Obama's inauguration.

In 2012, Chicago recorded more than 500 killings, compared with 414 in New York and 297 in Los Angeles.

The Rev Corey Brooks, pastor of the South Side's New Beginnings Church, is acting as a spokesman for the Watkins family and has offered a $5,000 (€3,860) reward for information leading to an arrest.

He dismissed as irrelevant the police's emphasis on gang involvement, saying: "I think our focus needs to be on the fact that a six-month-old baby died.

"(We) should be outraged that in our city a six-month-old baby could be shot and killed." (© Independent News Service)

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