By Adam Sege
11:54 AM CDT, July 1, 2013
A mother and her 1-year-old son were wounded as they sat in a van packed with women and children near a South Side park, according to police and family.
Leslie Freeman was in the front passenger seat with Demonte Freeman on her lap, enjoying the cool summer evening near Murray Park in West Englewood, when the side door of a red van slid open and two men fired nearly a dozen shots around 6 p.m Sunday, according to relatives.
The bullets missed a 7-year-old child who was outside the van and four younger children who were inside. But they hit Leslie Freeman in the wrist and the boy in the leg.
"She panicked," said the woman's uncle, John Edwards. "She just knew that Demonte was shot worse than she was.”
Demonte and a 1-year-old cousin were both stained with blood and relatives believed both had been shot, relatives said. But then they realized that the blood came from Demonte, who had fallen onto his cousin after being shot.
“He didn’t even actually cry when he was shot," said the boy's grandmother, Sabrina Freeman, 46. "I don’t know if he was in shock or whatever.”
A family friend drove Demonte and his mother to Holy Cross Hospital, where they were later transferred to Mount Sinai Hospital and reported as stable.
Freeman said her grandson "is doing all right. They decided to leave the bullet in because they don’t want to remove the bullet right now.”
Her daughter's Freeman's wrist was shattered in three places and she was due to undergo surgery, Sabina Freeman said.
Freeman said six of her grandchildren were in the area at the time of the shooting, two in the car and four in the park. Her daughter and other women in the van were keeping an eye on the older children still in the park, she said.
“I couldn’t believe it when I got the call," Sabrina Freeman said. "Who would do something like this?"
She said her daughter "didn’t understand why this happened to her. She’s not this type of person, she’s not in the streets or anything like that. She’s worried about her son, her baby.
“I don’t know if they did it purposely or they thought it was somebody else’s van, I’m not sure,” Freeman said.
Freeman lost a son, Deon Freeman, to violence last year when a gunman walked up to him outside a convenience store and opened fire. A suspect, a known gang member, was arrested just last month.
"A year ago March my son had passed," she said. "All this is like reoccurring.”
Edwards, 47, wondered whether the shooting may have part of a gang initiation. "Who else would shoot at a bunch of women and children?"
He said there had been no signs of trouble on the street before the gunfire. "No gangbangers around the park, no drinking, no nothing," Edwards said.
Andrew Holmes, a community activist who spoke with witnesses after the shooting, shared a similar account of what happened. "Everybody I talked with said they were ducking, running, grabbing kids because it was in front of a park," Holmes said.
Holmes said the community has offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible.
Police released few details of the shooting, which they described as a drive-by. Police said the van was dark-colored, but gave no further description of it or the gunmen. No one was reported in custody.
Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said there were "strong gang overtones" to the shooting.
"There were gang members on the scene and the person who uses that vehicle has been identified as a gang member," he said at a news conference about his department's latest gun seizures.
The shooting comes three days after a mother and her 5-year-old son were shot and killed in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.
Chavonne Brown and her son Sterling Sims were shot 2:30 a.m. Friday in their apartment in the 5300 block of South Winchester Avenue. The boy's 12-year-old brother witnessed the shooting from his upper bunk bed, authorities said.
An 18-year-old suspect in the shooting was later found wounded on the West Side.
Tribune reporter Jeremy Gorner contributed
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