Ripples of sadness and outrage are flooding the Austin community as family, residents and leaders cope with Wednesday night’s shooting of 7-year-old Heaven Sutton and the gang violence thought to be behind her death.
“My daughter was cheated out of her life at 7-years-old,” Heaven’s mother Ashake Banks told Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell outside her home Thursday as she pointed to where her daughter was shot near a table used to sell candy and snow cones to neighborhood children.
Banks told Chicago Tribune reporters she opened the candy store in front of her Austin home in the 1700 block of North Luna Avenue to keep kids away from the gang violence. Banks said Heaven had grown fearful and asked if they could move. She was looking forward to an upcoming Disney trip.
The Tribune reports there have been 20 homicides in Austin so far this year, and Heaven was the fourth person killed in the community this week. The incident comes at a time when Mayor Rahm Emanuel and police are battling a growing gang problem, which has contributed to a 38 percent increase in homicides citywide compared to last year.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported on Emanuel’s reaction to the incident.
“This is not about crime. This is about values,” Emanuel said. “Take your gang conflict away from a 7-year-old. Who raised you?”
Our partners at the Austin Weekly news reported a prayer vigil was held at the shooting site yesterday morning and a community march last night.
The Rev. Ira Acree of Greater St. John Bible Church is working with the family and encouraging the community to take action.
“This senseless killing of our babies must stop,” Acree said on Facebook in an invite asking residents to participate in last night’s march.
“It’s important that our community unites and expresses our outrage for this, another senseless killing,” he said.
Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy told the Chicago Sun-Times the department has evidence and is working “strong leads.” Banks told reporters Emanuel called her twice Thursday to assure her her daughter’s killer will be arrested.
A $3,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest.
Make sure to click the links to read the entire stories. AustinTalks will be covering the funeral and will keep readers updated about arrangements when that information is available.