Gun-Related Juvenile Killings on the Rise in Cook County, Illinois

Brenda Ibarra Boyd waits at Comer Children's Hospital.

De’ajah Blizzard, an 11-year-old girl from West Englewood, Chicago, remains hospitalized with a bullet lodged in her head, a disturbing emblem of the city’s escalating gun violence. Brenda Ibarra Boyd, De’ajah’s mother, shared her daughter’s progress at Comer Children’s Hospital, where De’ajah has been since a stray bullet struck her at home last Sunday.

De’ajah, known for her independence and love for volleyball, is one of 12 children aged 10 to 17 shot in Chicago between October 30 and November 10, 2022. Tragically, three of these victims, all 16-year-old boys, were killed in different neighborhoods.

Cook County medical examiner’s data reveals a worrying trend of juvenile shootings. Since the beginning of the year, 55 children aged 17 and under have been shot dead in Chicago. This figure marks an increase from 38 in 2019, 49 in 2020, and 58 in 2021.

Despite a more than 10% decrease in overall killings in Chicago compared to 2022, juvenile homicides continue to rise. The Chicago Police Department has reported 534 murder investigations this year. Some victims, like De’ajah and another 10-year-old boy, were injured unintentionally. Others, including Aurelio Guzman Jr., were likely targeted due to gang affiliations.

Guzman Sr. suspects his son’s connection to someone involved with the Latin Kings led to his murder. Guzman, known as “Junior,” was shot on October 31. Other victims in the South Chicago District included a 14-year-old boy and Ameer McMullin, another 16-year-old.

Citywide, nonfatal shootings have decreased by about 13% compared to last year. However, the South Chicago District has seen an increase in shooting incidents. Dr. Kenneth Wilson, a trauma surgeon at the University of Chicago Medicine, highlights the lifelong trauma survivors of such shootings carry, often returning to the same unsafe environments.

At UChicago Medicine, 55% of pediatric trauma patients are under 14, with 45% admitted after dark. Wilson questions why so much violence occurs when streetlights are on. Survivors of gun violence also face a higher risk of being shot again.

Guzman Sr. shared the pain of losing his son and the struggle to find answers, including trying to obtain video footage of the incident. He reflected on the moment he realized his son had passed, connecting emotionally with the night sky.

Back at Comer Children’s Hospital, Boyd faced the agonizing wait as De’ajah’s condition showed signs of improvement. A physical therapist assisted De’ajah in sitting up, facilitating a brief FaceTime with her siblings. The family also received emotional support from the hospital staff.

Boyd expressed frustration over the constant threat of gun violence, even inside their home, questioning the need for bulletproof windows for safety. As De’ajah underwent surgery to remove metal from her throat, her journey towards recovery began, underscoring the broader issue of gun violence affecting Chicago’s youth.

Author: CrimeDoor

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