7-year-old boy killed in violent July 4 celebration in Chicago

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Monday, July 6, 2015
Amari Brown, 7, was shot Saturday, July 4, 2015, in Humboldt Park in Chicago.
Amari Brown, 7, was shot Saturday, July 4, 2015, in Humboldt Park in Chicago.

CHICAGO -- The bullet that killed a 7-year-old boy celebrating the Fourth of July with his family in Chicago was meant for his father, who is a "ranking gang member," Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said.

McCarthy said Antonio Brown was the intended target of the attack and is not cooperating with investigators.

"His father is ranking gang member with 45 previous arrests," said McCarthy. "I don't know how many pages (his arrest record) is, it's probably 22 pages long. (He was) arrested for a firearms in April, on the street the very next day. If Mr. Brown is in custody, his son is alive."

His son Amari Brown was standing with an unrelated 26-year-old woman on the sidewalk in the 1100 block of North Harding Avenue in the Humboldt Park neighborhood just before midnight Saturday when shots rang out.

He was shot in the right side of the chest and taken by his father to Cook County Hospital, where he died. The woman was also shot in the chest and is hospitalized in stable condition.

Amari Brown's grieving mother, Amber Hailey, could not be comforted as her family made a plea for the person who gunned down her son to turn themselves in.

"You might as well turn yourself in, because this 7-year-old, our family member, did nothing to you," Deirdre Holman said.

The child's family made their demand during a Sunday afternoon prayer vigil on the sidewalk of the Humboldt Park neighborhood where the boy was killed.

"This person was killed by someone who looks like us, who walks like us, who dresses like us, who lives among us," Rev. Ira Acree said.

Pastors with the Leaders Network pledged $1,000 for information leading to an arrest.

"None of us will be safe until all of these children are safe," Rev. Marshall Hatch said.

The soon-to-be second grader was one of several dozen weekend shooting victims in the city. By mid-afternoon Sunday, at least seven people had been killed in Chicago and 40 wounded in 33 separate shooting incidents since Friday.

Among those hit by bullets was 17-year-old Vonzell Banks, who was honored Sunday at the South Side church where he played the drums. Banks was shot and killed Friday at a park named for another slain teen, Hadiya Pendleton.

"In the last 48 hours, Chicago police officers have recovered about one illegal gun per hour across our city," McCarthy said.

While displaying some of those guns, Supt. McCarthy said there was a move to increase manpower this weekend by putting officers on 12-hour shifts.

McCarthy said the case of Amari Brown's father highlights the need for tougher punishment for alleged gun offenders.