Chicago police now believe a 9-year-old boy who was shot dead earlier this week was lured to an alleyway where he was targeted as part of ongoing gang-related violence gripping the city.
Tyshawn Lee was found Monday with multiple gunshots to his upper body, shocking a city that has grown accustomed to street-gang violence.
"At this point, we believe that Tyshawn was targeted, lured to this spot and murdered," Supt. Garry McCarthy said during a news conference Thursday. "We believe that this is the most recent in a series of gang-related, violent events."
McCarthy added that investigators believe Tyshawn's father, Pierre Stokes, has ties to a gang that is "in conflict with another gang." Stokes, however, is not cooperating with the ongoing investigation into those ties, McCarthy said.
Stokes earlier told the Chicago Tribune that what police had said about him was untrue. He added that anyone seeking to harm him could easily find him, instead of preying on family members.
The boy was shot several times at close range in an alleyway of Chicago’s Gresham neighborhood near his grandmother's house. According to police, an argument involving multiple people took place in the alley. Someone then pulled out a gun, fired, and then fled.
Police told BuzzFeed News that officers arrived in the 800 block of South Damen Avenue around 4:19 p.m. and found the boy with multiple gunshot wounds to his upper body. A basketball was found nearby.
An unnamed person of interest who walked into Area South police headquarters Wednesday accompanied by an attorney was released at midnight after nine hours of questioning, police added.
The attorney later told the Chicago Tribune that the person had come forward in an effort to prevent more violence.
A $35,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest in Tyshawn's killing. Local church leaders are hoping the money will stop the cycle of shootings and retaliation.
Chicago has long had some of the strictest gun laws in the country, while also leading in rates of gun violence and police seizure of illegal weapons. In recent months, shootings and homicide rates have topped the same time period last year by about 18%.
Law enforcement sources told the Chicago Tribune that Tyshawn's death may have been connected to two gang-related South Side shootings in October.
Tracey Morgan, 25, was killed on Oct. 13 after attending a meeting aimed at keeping gang members from violent crimes. His mother, who picked him up, was injured.
On Oct. 18, 19-year-old Brianna Jenkins was fatally shot and a 20-year-old man was injured as they were sitting in a car.
At Thursday's news conference, a local reverend said he would help anyone with information that leads to the arrest of Tyshawn's killer relocate to a different city.
"If they're afraid, I will personally help them move ... out of my own pocket," he said.
McCarthy also expressed sadness and frustration over the case Thursday.
"Sometimes you can't help but take [these cases] personally, sometimes you can't help but have it affect you," he told reporters. "We've seen this before, children getting murdered because of someone else's involvement with criminal activity."
The criminal justice system "doesn't help," McCarthy added before growing visibly emotional and stepping away from the podium. "It doesn't take a big man to hold a gun....We're dealing with cowards here."