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Youngest victim of park shooting leaves hospital: 'May the good Lord bless you'

Three-year-old Deonta Howard, the youngest victim of last week's mass shooting in a South Side park, sang a little hymn and even imitated a TV reporter as he met the media after being released from the hospital Wednesday.

“May the good Lord bless you. May the good Lord bless you,” Deonta sang into a microphone at New Beginnings Church, 6620 S. King Drive Wednesday night.

When his mother Shamarah Leggett asked if he had anything to say "to all these people who were talking about you," Deonta grabbed a mike from a WGN-TV reporter and said, "I got shot."

Asked where, the little boy pointed to his cheek and said, "Right here."

Deonta was shot last Thursday night when two men armed with an assault rifle and a .22-caliber handgun fire indiscriminately into a crowd at Cornell Square Park in the Back of the Yards. Deonta was playing on the basketball court when a bullet struck him near the ear and exited through his cheek.

Doctors have said Deonta did not suffer brain damage but will require plastic surgery.

“They said that he’s going to have to have surgery for the next 15 to 20 years, so it’s going to be a long process, but it’s okay,” Leggett said Wednesday night. “I told God I could deal with anything, as long as my baby comes home. And he answered the whole world’s prayers, not just mine, because we all was praying.”

As the brief news conference drew to a close, Leggett told her son to "Say goodbye, world."

"Goodbye, world."

"Say, Thank you," she said.

"Thank you," the boy told the room.

Then Deonta slipped off a Harley-Davidson motorcycle he had been sitting on and bounced toward the door.

Four people -- Bryon Champ, 21; Kewane Gatewood, 20; Tabari Young, 22; and Brad Jett, 22 -- have been charged with attempted murder and aggravated battery with a firearm.

According to police, Champ and Young, one armed with the assault rifle and the other .22-caliber handgun, opened fire at the crowded park that they considered the turf of the rival gang. Police say Champ was looking for revenge after being grazed by a bullet earlier in the day.

Court and police records show Champ pleaded guilty in February 2010 to felony possession of a stolen motor vehicle and was sentenced to 18 months of probation. After he was arrested in May 2011 on a felony drug charge, he also was charged with violating probation and held in jail for 22 days. The drug charge was later dropped.

Then in June 2012, police heard gunshots near 53rd Street and Marshfield Avenue and saw a man wielding a handgun run into an apartment building. They arrested Champ and found a loaded 40-caliber Smith and Wesson, records show. He pleaded guilty the next month to felony aggravated unlawful use of a weapon by a felon and was sentenced to boot camp.

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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