As bullets started pelting the car that they were riding in Sunday night, Javier Rosario says he and his best friend both quickly covered his 4-year-old sister in the back seat to try to shield her from the gunfire.
But Shyla Rivera was still hit in the right thigh, becoming the latest youthful face of Chicago violence — this time on the Northwest Side. In the last month and a half, eight children who were 7 or younger have been shot in Chicago, mostly on the South and West sides, according to a Tribune analysis.
"I started ... bursting (into) tears when I seen her when she was shot," Rosario, 17, who himself was wounded in the left leg, said as he balanced himself on crutches outside the family's West Side home Monday.
Rosario, his young sister and the friend were all shot in the back seat of their Nissan Altima by a gunman from a vehicle that had pulled beside them in the Portage Park neighborhood, but all three sustained non-life-threatening injuries, police said. Two others, including Jose Silva, also a brother of Shyla, were uninjured in the front seat.
Chicago police said the victims first noticed a beige or gray Infiniti G35 at Central Avenue and Irving Park Road about 10:20 p.m. According to preliminary police reports, the vehicle continued north on Central ahead of the Altima, but the Infiniti eventually drew alongside. A passenger leaned out a window with a gun and opened fire, police said.
"I just remember seeing a gun and him biting his lip and shooting," said Rosario's friend, who didn't want to be named. "I thought they were BB (pellets). I didn't feel anything until the ambulance came."
Silva, who was driving, made a U-turn, drove to a 7-Eleven at Irving Park and Central and flagged down a police officer. Rosario said he grabbed a bag of ice from the store for his sister until the paramedics arrived.
Rosario said his sister wasn't crying and even kept telling him that she didn't want to go to the hospital.
"She's a tough son of a gun. She took it better than I did," he said.
Rosario and his friend were released after treatment for their wounds at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, while Shyla remained hospitalized at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge.
Police provided only vague descriptions of two suspects, including the driver of the Infiniti.
Police said none of the victims had gang affiliations, but the shooting was the second in as many days near Irving Park and Central. Police couldn't say if the shootings were related.
Relatives described Shyla as the family's "princess" and said she is outgoing. They said she was tagging along with her brothers for the ride since she follows them everywhere.
Rosario said he was playing basketball at a Northwest Side park earlier Sunday, a favorite hobby of his. But that night, Rosario and Silva spent time with Shyla, their friend and his brother – all of whom were riding in the Nissan.
They all planned to go out for chicken wings, but Silva decided to drive the friend and his brother home, Rosario said. It was during that car ride when the shooting occurred.
Rosario believes the shooter had to have been gunning for other people, and not him, his siblings or friends.
“I hope they go down. They made a mistake,” Rosario said of the suspects. “They probably thought we looked like somebody (else).”
Shyla, Rosario and his friend were among the more than 30 people shot across the city Friday night through Sunday, four of whom died, the Tribune analysis shows.