3-year-old wounded in Chicago shooting recovering

CHICAGO (AP) — A 3-year-old boy shot in the head during this week’s mass shooting at a southwest Chicago park was recovering from surgery in intensive care Saturday, a family spokesman said.

Deonta Howard was among 13 people wounded late Thursday when an unknown number of people shot up a crowded basketball court with an assault rifle. The family’s pastor, the Rev. Corey Brooks, said the boy had surgery Friday that went well.

“There’s going to have to be some plastic surgery done later on,” Brooks said. “… Thankfully there was no brain damage or eye damage.”

Police hadn’t announced any arrests as of Saturday afternoon as the investigation continued into a shooting that again placed Chicago’s gang violence in a national spotlight. Shootings overnight killed four people around the city and injured four others, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Police have said they think Thursday night’s attack at Cornell Square Park in the Back of the Yards neighborhood was gang-related. Several gang members were among those shot, though it was not yet clear who the intended target was, police said.

Deonta was among the bystanders, Brooks said, allowed to stay up late to enjoy one of the last warm nights of summer and watch the neighborhood game with his mother, something he loves doing. Brooks, the pastor at New Beginnings Church in Chicago, has found himself repeatedly comforting victims of gun violence.

“Typically the kids are at home with the grandmother at 7:30, that’s their routine,” Brooks said of the 3-year-old. “But that one particular night they stayed up later than normal because it was a nice day and there was a lot of people in the park and everybody was throwing basketballs.”

As the gunfire rang out, Deonta was struck just below an ear, and the bullet exited his jaw, Brooks said. The boy remained sedated in intensive care as of Saturday morning, the pastor said.

Brooks described Deonta as a “real smart little kid” with lots of energy.

“I was told he loves to dance,” he said.

Cornell Square Park is better lit than most parks in the area and so it draws lots of people on warm nights. It’s also in an area that Chicago’s top police official referred to as a “high gang-conflict zone.” But the park is between two other areas that police have flooded with officers as part of stepped-up patrols — demonstrating the difficulty of trying to contain all of the city’s gang hot spots.

Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said Friday that the assailants fired at least 16 rounds from a 7.62 mm assault-style rifle. He said detectives were “interviewing a number of people,” but hadn’t taken anyone into custody.

On Saturday, police spokesman Jose Estrada said that had not changed. He had no other updates.

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