Infant the latest victim of Chicago gang violence
ABOVE PHOTO: April Jackson, left, comforts Dominique Young, the aunt of 6-month-old Jonylah Watkins, outside Comer Children’s Hospital in Chicago, after the baby was shot five times while her father was changing her diaper in a parked minivan in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office announced Tuesday morning that the baby died from her wounds. Her father, Jonathan Watkins, remains in critical condition at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
(AP Photo/Chicago Sun-Times, Jessica Koscielniak)
By Don Babwin
CHICAGO — A 6-month old girl became the latest innocent victim of Chicago gang violence when a gunman ambushed her father while he was changing her diaper along a South Side street and unloaded round after round into the two of them.
Jonylah Watkins died at a hospital Tuesday after surgeons did what they could to repair the damage from the five bullets that tore through her body during Monday’s attack in Woodlawn. Her father, Jonathan Watkins, was in serious but stable condition Tuesday after receiving treatment for wounds to his buttocks and side and a graze to his face, police said.
Jonathan Watkins is a gang member with a long criminal history — including a three-year prison sentence on a weapons charge— and there is little doubt he was the target of the attack, Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said at a news conference Tuesday hours after the infant died. Watkins was standing in his car door changing his daughter’s diaper around lunchtime when the gunman approached and opened fire.
“He was obviously targeted,” McCarthy said. “It was very clear that whoever was doing this was firing at the father and exclusively at the father who happened to be sitting in a minivan with the child.”
PHOTO: Jonylah Watkins
Such news conferences have become all too common of late. The city recorded more than 500 homicides last year for the first time since 2008, and only weeks ago McCarthy was vowing to capture those responsible for killing 15-year-old honors student Hadiya Pendleton, who was gunned down on a South Side street in an apparent case of mistaken identity.
Two suspected gang members have been charged with killing Pendleton, and on Monday, McCarthy said his department’s renewed push to fight gang violence is paying dividends. There were only 14 homicides recorded in February, which is half of last February’s amount and the lowest monthly total since January 1957.
On Tuesday, a day after the superintendent reported that the number of homicides were down 26 percent this year compared to the same period last year, McCarthy acknowledged that the infant’s shooting makes it “hard to see the progress” and is a sobering reminder that “we have a lot of work to do.”
McCarthy said that police have surveillance video that shows the van they believe was the getaway vehicle. And he said Investigators were trying to verify the existence of an alleged Facebook post threatening Watkins.
Area residents surmised that the gunman may not have known that the infant was in the van.
“They know who they were going after, but because he was bent over her changing the diaper they didn’t see that child was in the damn car,” said Carl Whitehead, a resident of the block where the shooting occurred.
McCarthy said detectives had spoken to Jonathan Watkins, but that they hadn’t determined if he plans to cooperate with their investigation or not.
“We don’t have one individual that’s really stepping up to help us,” he said.
Police often have a hard time getting witnesses to talk about suspected gang-related cases. For example, in the Pendleton case, one of the suspects refused to cooperate with investigators after he was shot month’s before the honors student’s killing.
The superintendent said the neighborhood where the infant was killed is the site of numerous gang conflicts, and that police saturated the area in the area Monday night “in the vicinity of the two gangs we believe to be involved in this conflict.”
Monday’s attack added to the grim roster of young children who have been gunned down, including a 7-year-old girl who was caught in the crossfire of a gang shootout while selling snow cones last summer and a 6-year-old girl killed a year earlier while sitting between her mother’s legs on the family’s porch.
The attack wasn’t even Jonylah’s first brush with gun violence. Her mother, Judy Watkins, was shot in the knee while pregnant with her, according to the woman’s mother, Mary Young.
“There’s too much shooting over there,” Young told reporters Monday. Speaking of her granddaughter, she added, “She’s nothing but 6 months old. How could anybody — what kind of heart?”
On Tuesday, there were two piles of window glass where the bullet-riddled van was parked a day earlier. There was also a makeshift memorial to the girl typical after such tragedies that included a couple of stuffed animals, a giftwrapped box and a helium-filled balloon with the words “Love Ya” on it.
“I walked past this spot every day,” said Whitehead. I got a one-year-old granddaughter right up stairs. This has got to stop.”
+ Top Story
The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative’s top executive called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather the news.
The woman’s voice was frantic and breathless, and she was choking back tears. “Help me. I’m Amanda Berry,” she told a 911 dispatcher. “I’ve been kidnapped and I’ve been missing for 10 years and I’m, I’m here, I’m free now.”
PepsiCo is once again learning the risks of celebrity partnerships after an ad for Mountain Dew was criticized for portraying racial stereotypes and making light of violence toward women. The soda and snack food company said it immediately pulled the 60-second spot after learning that people found it offensive.
Kiera Wilmot, 16, is by all known accounts an excellent student with impeccable behavior. She is also — now — a marked woman who will be tried as an adult for discharging a weapon on school grounds in what was allegedly a bungled science experiment," reports WSTB.com.
America's blacks voted at a higher rate than other minority groups in 2012 and by most measures surpassed the white turnout for the first time, reflecting a deeply polarized presidential election in which blacks strongly supported Barack Obama while many whites stayed home.
Three college friends of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were arrested and accused Wednesday of trying to protect him by going into his dorm room and getting rid of a backpack filled with hollowed-out fireworks three days after the deadly attack.
Chris Kelly, half of the 1990s kid rap duo behind one of the decade's most memorable songs, "Jump," has died at an Atlanta hospital of an apparent drug overdose, authorities said. He was 34. Kelly, known as "Mac Daddy," and Chris Smith, known as "Daddy Mac," made up the rap group Kris Kross...
According to the data found in a new report, “The Buying Power of Black America,” now may be the most opportune time ever for businesses to develop a strategy for increasing their share of the Black American market.