Mateo Zastro was killed in an apparent road rage shooting. Credit: Courtesy

WEST LAWN — A 3-year-old boy was killed in an apparent road rage incident when a driver shot into his mother’s car on the Southwest Side Friday, police said.

The murder happened at about 8:30 p.m. in the 4400 block of West Marquette Road in the West Lawn neighborhood. 

Police said the boy, identified by the Cook County medical examiner as Mateo Zastro, was a passenger in the backseat of a car with his mother and three other siblings. The car was headed north on the 7000 block of South Cicero Avenue when there was an apparent “road rage” incident, Chicago Lawn (8th) District Cmdr. Bryan Spreyne said in a press conference Saturday.

“The mother attempted to flee from the other vehicles of the road rage incident, where the offenders subsequently followed her, and were able to catch up to her, and several shots were fired,” Spreyne said. “One of the shots struck the 3-year-old child.”

Mateo was taken to Christ Advocate Hospital with a gunshot wound to the head, police said. He was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.  

None of the other passengers in the car, including the three other children, were injured, police said. There was no one in custody as of Sunday evening. 

Police said that the shooter’s vehicle may have been a red Dodge Charger or Ford Mustang. 

“I want to offer our deep and profound condolences to the family of this precious 3-year-old child,” Spreyne said. “Our vow to the child’s family, and to the entire city, is we will not rest until those responsible for this senseless and cowardly act of violence are brought to justice.”

Community activist Andrew Holmes, whose daughter died from gun violence and often works with the families of gun violence victims, said in the press conference he had spent more than two hours with Mateo’s family on Saturday.

“They’re not doing well. None of them are,” he told Block Club Sunday.

At the press conference, Holmes said that Mateo’s mother was grieving.

“All she is doing is clutching on to two dinosaurs, and this was the baby’s favorite toy, the dinosaurs,” Holmes said. “She’s terribly upset.”

Mateo was the youngest of the four siblings in the car on Friday. Mateo normally sat in the front seat, close to his mother, but had wanted to ride in the backseat to be close to his brother, Holmes said.

The police and Holmes’ community activist organization are offering a $7,000 reward for information about the shooter. Anonymous tips can be sent to Area One detectives at 312-747-8380, or 1-800-883-5587.

Holmes on Saturday said the shooter knew what they were doing when they fired their gun.

“There was no tint on that window,” Holmes said. “You see those children inside that car, and you still discharged that weapon.”

A GoFundMe has been set up by a friend of Mateo’s mother, Ariell Howard, to help pay for funeral arrangements. 

“[Mateo’s] mother is a single hard working young woman who is raising her four children on her own and due to his unexpected passing she will need all the help she can get both financially and emotionally,” the post states.

Mateo is the second young child to be shot and killed while riding as a passenger in their parents’ car in the city this year. On Aug. 28, five-year-old Devon McGregor was driving with his father in Rogers Park when a gunman opened fire, killing Devon and wounding his father. 

Devon had just recently started kindergarten before he was shot. 

There have been no arrests in the Rogers Park incident, police said. 

In a separate incident later Sunday, police said a seven-year-old boy was shot in a car while on his way to church with his family. Deputy police chief Larry Snelling said a family member in the car with the boy saw someone trying to steal a car on the street. The family member confronted that person, who then fired shots, hitting the boy, Snelling said. 

Snelling said the boy was shot in the leg with a rifle round, but he was stable. 

“It’s hard to stand here and say he was lucky, but this could have been worse. So our prayers are with him,” Snelling said. “I heard he’s a tough kid … and he’s doing well now.”

Police have taken a person of interest into custody after they were identified by the family of the boy who was shot, Snelling said. He praised the work of police detectives in apprehending the suspect, but had strong words for the community after a weekend that saw two children shot in their parents’ vehicles. 

“These children out here in the street, these are our children, and that’s what we’re here for,” Snelling said. “So, I would say to the community please, please, let’s start stepping up. Let’s start pointing out these people who are out here shooting and killing children.”