Local

Girl, 8, dead; cousin, 7, injured in shooting

Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Tanaja Stokes, 8, was killed.  Ariana Jones, 7, pictured at right, was also wounded.

A Chicago family is mourning a young girl who was shot to death while jumping rope on the Far South Side.

Tanaja Stokes was shot and killed around 8 p.m. at 107th and Indiana streets on Tuesday. Her cousin, Ariana Jones, 7, was shot in the head, but is expected to survive, according to Alice Thomas, Ariana's mother. She said Ariana is recovering at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn.

"I want my baby back," sobbed Debrah Thomas, Tanaja's mother.

Authorities say Tanaja died within an hour of being shot.

"All the violence out and all the shootings going on out here, it's got to stop. People need to come to an agreement and stop. People dying, innocent kids are dying for no reason," said Charles Stokes, Tanaja Stoke's father.

Witnesses say at least two gunmen-- described as between the ages of 16 and 18 and wearing red ball caps -- were involved in the shooting. They say there were more boys with guns by an alley near the home.

Police say two male shooters rode by on bikes southbound on Indiana firing guns.

"As the bullet hit her, she just fell, right there. She was gone. She was gone. The other baby ran into the house and she said, 'I'm shot, I'm shot in my head,'" said Keauna Wise, Tanaja Stoke's cousin.

That victim, Ariana Jones, has bullet fragments in her skull, and is expected to survive, according to her family.

At the home Wednesday, there was a steady stream of visitors. Some placed more stuff animals at the doorstep. Others, including an anti-violence group, sang hymns for grieving relatives.

Some family members are calling on military action in hopes of ending the violence.

"I think it would probably and in so many ways be good for the National Guard to come out and I think it will stop half of our crime rate," said Joseph Gipson, Tanaja Stoke's uncle.

The family also is asking the gunman step forward. That message is shared by another gunshot victim.

Bobbie Ford was shot Thursday. She came to see the girls' relatives Wednesday, and offer her condolences. And she pushed to end, what officials call, the 'code of silence.'

"We got to help people to speak out when they see something happening, to report it. No see, no tell, it's got to cease. Everybody sees everything, and somebody got to tell something. If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything," said Ford.

Relatives and anti-violence groups in the Roseland community say that there have been long-standing problems between two different groups of young people in the neighborhood. One anti-violence group says that that may stem from Corliss High School where there was a strong police presence Wednesday. Police would not confirm why they were at the school or what problem may extend to that specific high school.

Family members also say there is a vicious cycle of violence and desperation in the neighborhood.

"I'm trying to figure out why all these babies [are] getting shot. What the hell is going on in the city of Chicago?" said Theodore Willis, victim's great-grandfather. "We talk about wars [in] other places. What about here? It's been a war in Chicago ever since I been here. I'm 75... years old. What is the problem?"

"This has to stop. We have to figure out a way to remove guns from our streets and to resolve our conflicts without this kind of senseless violence," said Vance Henry, deputy chief of staff, mayor's office.

"So many police reports. My kids get up to go to school, they [are] over there on the side of the houses. I got about six police reports. I['ve] been begging them to help us. We can't seem to get no help from nobody," said Keauna Wise, aunt of both victims.

On Wednesday morning, a Chicago Public Schools official visited the home, offering support and help with funeral arrangements for Tanaja. The medical examiner's office says that Tanaja was 9 years old, but relatives say she would be turning 9 at the end of October.

Relatives also say it took too long for police and an ambulance to arrive. They say it took 30 minutes after they called 911. There was no comment from police or 911 as of Wednesday morning.

"I'm going for my niece. I love her. I will always remember her. It is insane when you kill a child like that in cold blood. She didn't even have a chance," said Alice Thomas.

Tanaja and Ariana went to the same elementary school. Family members say Tanaja loved to sing and dance and loved to help out at home.

"She was a nice little kid, just a kid, an innocent kid," said Larry Harris, Tanaja's grandfather.

"What I think this underscores is our absolute need to be committed in partnership with the community, citizens and everyone in Chicago. Essentially, what we need to do is turn this anger into mobilized activity where we start to say something. If you see something, say something. Silence does kill. And in this particular case we need all the help we can get to get these individuals with guns off the street," said Deputy Supt. Ernest Brown, Bureau of Patrol.

No one is in custody.

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