When gunfire rang out Tuesday night outside their Lawndale apartment building, Nancy Nelson and her 11-year-old son followed a sadly familiar routine.

“We basically did what we usually do,” Nelson said. “We laid low until the shots subsided.”

Outside the three-story tan brick building, a 14-year-old boy had been walking down the sidewalk when a shooter approached and opened fire, police said. The boy was hit in the lower back and taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he remained in critical condition this morning.

Police have not commented on a motive.

Nancy Nelson and her son did not know the boy, they said as they stood outside two hours later.

But the gunfire had rattled their nerves, and Nelson was saddened to hear the boy who was shot was just three years older than her son, Michael.

The 14-year-old had been shot on the east side of the street, where a police officer was now photographing a hat lying on the ground inside yellow tape. Nelson and her son watched from the west sidewalk of Drake, next to a vacant lot with grass taller than Michael.

It was not the first time Michael Cunningham had heard gunfire, or the second. Asked how many times he had heard gunshots, the fifth grader couldn't say.

One time last year, the 11-year-old recalled, he told his grandmother to duck after seeing a man pull a gun outside moments before shots rang out.

“I said, ‘Grandma, get on the floor,’ ” he recalled. After the gunfire ended, Michael peeked out the window and ducked down again when the shooter looked in his direction, he said.

Tuesday night, neither Michael nor his mother saw any commotion. When the shots rang out, they dropped to the ground, concerned a bullet might pierce their window.

“I jumped down on the ground, rolled, and then stayed there,” Michael said.

They stayed on the ground until they heard the sirens of arriving squad cars.

As of 7:15 a.m. today, no suspects were in custody, Police News Affairs Officer Jose Estrada said.

Area Central detectives are investigating the shooting, which was one of at least seven across the city on Tuesday. Ten people were shot, including a 30-year-old man who died and four people wounded in the 3700 block of South Langley Avenue.

The boy shot on Drake was the youngest of the ten, and the youngest person shot in the city since an 11-year-old girl shot Sunday night.

asege@tribune.com

Twitter: @AdamSege