CHICAGO - The gunman was wearing the menacing hockey mask of Jason, the killer from the 1980s horror movies. The 7-year-old girl was a bumblebee.
Their paths violently intersected on Thursday afternoon. As Chicago children fanned out across the city in search of candy on an oddly snowy Halloween, the masked gunman fired a spray of bullets in the direction of a gang rival on the city's West Side, the police said. Struck in the chest as she walked by was the girl, trick-or-treating with her family.
On Friday, the 7-year-old girl remained hospitalized, in critical but stable condition, as anxious family members held vigil. A 15-year-old boy was in custody and had been charged with attempted murder by evening.
Chicagoans, weary and sometimes numb to a daily drumbeat of gun violence in the news, took notice of the particularly gut-wrenching crime. In Little Village, the neighborhood where the shooting took place, residents were shaken by the events of the day before, still processing the images of the revelry of Halloween interrupted by the sound of gunshots, the sight of fleeing pedestrians and the din of police cars and ambulances. In 2016, Chicago experienced a spike in gun violence, but shootings are down this year compared with last year. © John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune, via Associated PressA group of children near where a 7-year-old girl was shot while trick-or-treating on Thursday in Chicago.
Little Village, a pocket of Chicago that heavily draws immigrants from Mexico, is known for its streets lined with bakeries, dollar stores and shops with quinceañera dresses in the windows. The community has also experienced decades of gang battles that sometimes erupt into violence.
It was along one of those busy commercial strips that the shooting took place on Thursday, as children went store to store collecting goodies before dinner.
"It was exceptionally brazen," said Anthony Guglielmi, a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department. "It just speaks to how heinous this shooting was."
On Halloween, the department routinely deploys plainclothes officers to patrol city streets during trick-or-treating hours of late afternoon and evening.
The 7-year-old girl, who lives in the neighborhood and attends a public school several blocks from where she was shot, was walking with relatives along a stretch where store employees stood outside holding bowls of candy as pedestrians navigated slippery sidewalks from an early snowstorm.
Suddenly, one group of young men approached another, the police said. The person in the Jason mask yelled an insult, and then fired a gun into the crowd. The police said he hit his intended target in the hand but also struck the passing girl.
Anahi Olivera, a clerk who was working at a florist on the block, heard gunshots and began counting the loud pops. She got to eight before they stopped.
People began running, scrambling down the sidewalk.
Ms. Olivera opened the door of her shop and herded people in. Six people, maybe eight, ran inside. Two were little girls in witch costumes, frightened by the melee.
Outside, a male relative who had been trick-or-treating with the girl carried her into a cellphone store down the block.
Ms. Olivera called 911 and ran outside, pressing against the glass of the cellphone store, she said. She saw the injured girl lying on the floor, her relative desperately pumping her chest.
"Her eyes were open," Ms. Olivera said. "But her face was so white. I think it was the father who was with her - he was crying."
Michael D. Rodríguez, an alderman who represents Little Village, was trick-or-treating with his children on the same block where the shooting happened. He did not hear gunshots but saw the mayhem afterward.
"I've always felt safe and I continue to feel safe," he said. "But this is definitely shocking. It hurts."
While the authorities in Chicago say they sometimes struggle to find witnesses willing to talk to them about crimes, this shooting prompted a flood of information. Witnesses came forward and described the scene in detail, the police said. Some people stopped at a local police station to tell their stories.
Police also recovered a firearm connected to the shooting.
At a news conference on Friday, Eddie Johnson, the police superintendent, praised the community response and denounced the perpetrator.
"I'm disgusted but committed to doing everything we can to find the cowards that would engage in a gun battle in the early evening hours while children were trick-or-treating," Superintendent Johnson said. "The people of Chicago will come together in a moment like this. Incidents like this don't just touch those people who live in a specific neighborhood on a certain side of town. This is a crime that touches all of us."