AUSTIN — A 33-year-old man has been charged with murder in the shooting death of a 7-year-old girl fatally shot while visiting her family on the West Side for the Fourth of July.
CPD’s Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan announced the charges Monday night, saying the shooting stemmed from ongoing “gang-on-gang violence” dating back several weeks.
Natalia Wallace, of East Side, was visiting relatives in Austin for the holiday when she was killed. Police said they responded to a call of two people shot near 152 N. Latrobe Avenue around 7 p.m. Saturday.
Deenihan said Natalia was on the sidewalk when a white vehicle pulled up and three men got out and began firing shots. Police said they recovered 27 shells on the scene.
Natalia was shot in her forehead and taken to Stroger Hospital, where she was pronounced dead about an hour later, according to Chicago Police spokesman Hector Alfaro. A 32-year-old man also was hit in the ankle and leg. The offenders fled the scene, Deenihan said.
“It’s unbelievable that another child was killed,” Deenihan said.
Detectives were able to use nearby video footage to identify and track the vehicle, and arrested its driver, Reginald Lamar Merrill.
Deenihan said Merrill was wearing “similar” clothing he had on when the shooting occurred and he admitted to having the car for at least part of the day that Natalia was shot. Merrill has been charged with first-degree murder.
The investigation is continuing, Deenihan said. There are three other people detectives are pursuing, Deenihan said.
Deenihan did not give specifics but said police believe this shooting was retaliation for another fatal shooting several weeks ago. Natalia was not the intended target.
“You shot a 7-year-old kid. That’s the message,” Deenihan said. “We shouldn’t be searching for them; they should be turning themselves and everyone in the community should be walking them in there.
“They personally chose to get in a car, they personally chose to have firearms on them and they chose to shoot — and their bullets missed and they killed a 7-year-old. Now, own it. Take some ownership of the decisions you make. Turn yourself in and admit that you killed a 7-year-old child.”
Natalia is at least the fifth child fatally shot in the city over the past three weeks in an unusual spate of gun violence that has wounded many dozens of people, including several other young children and teenagers. Natalia also is at least the third child gunned down on the West Side recently.
Mekhi James, just 3, was shot and killed in South Austin on June 20 when someone pulled up behind the car he was riding in and fired shots into the car.
Two hours later, 13-year-old Amaria Jones was killed when a bullet tore through her home and struck her in the neck. Two more teenagers outside the home were wounded. The Chicago Sun-Times reported Amaria was showing her mom a dance move when she was shot.
Sincere Gaston, just 1, was shot and killed June 27 in Englewood. His mother also was injured in that shooting.
Lena Nunez Anaya, 10, also was killed June 27 when a bullet tore through her grandmother’s home in Logan Square and hit her in the head while she was watching TV.
“We cannot allow this to be normalized in this city,” Supt. David Brown said earlier Monday. “We cannot get used to hearing about children being gunned down in Chicago every weekend.”
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