LITTLE VILLAGE — Chicago police are increasing patrols in Little Village and are offering a $15,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest in the weekend murder of 8-year-old Melissa Ortega on 26th Street.
Police Supt. David Brown said in a press conference Monday investigators have “very strong leads” in the case, but declined to give specific details.
The police department is encouraging anyone with information on the 8-year-old’s shooter to submit tips through an anonymous tip line by calling 833-408-0069. Any tipster that provides information leading to a conviction or an arrest will receive up to a $15,000 reward, Brown said.
Brown also said police are increasing patrols in the area to be “highly visible,” but it’s unclear exactly how many more. Police patrols were active on 26th Street Monday.
Ald. Mike Rodriguez (22nd), whose ward covers Little Village, said neighbors are cooperating with police and have handed over surveillance video to help with the investigation. Rodriguez said he was told police had obtained video footage and were following “promising leads.”
Melissa, a student at Emiliano Zapata Academy in the neighborhood, was shot and killed Saturday afternoon in Little Village while she walked down the street with her mother on the 4000 Block of West 26th Street. Police said Melissa and her mother were not the intended targets of the shooting, which was likely related to an ongoing gang conflict.
Melissa and her mother had just immigrated to Chicago from Mexico in August. A GoFundMe has raised nearly $57,000 as of Monday night — well over the $20,000 goal — to pay for a funeral and bring her body back to her hometown in Mexico.
In a statement released through New Life Centers, the Ortega family asked for privacy.
Community organizers gathered Monday at the intersection of 26th Street and Pulaski Road where Melissa was shot to demand more attention and resources in the neighborhood to prevent violent crime.
Baltazar Enriquez, president of the Little Village Community Council, called on officials to help bring more mental health clinics and services to Little Village to heal trauma in the neighborhood.
“Our neighborhood is so traumatized, we can’t even deal with one death when another death happens,” Enriquez said. “Our children are dying, and this is just the beginning of the year.”
Maribel Medina, a Little Village parent and volunteer with the group, said she has to drive to suburban Oak Park or La Grange to get mental health services for her children.
“I have the resources to do that, but a lot of my community members don’t have the resources to do that,” Medina said. “We need this desperately here.”
Officials at Emiliano Zapata Academy said they are working with a crisis management team from Chicago Public Schools to assist school counselors, social workers and psychologists with student support, according to a message on the school’s website.
The school also said it’s working with a safety team to ensure students are safe during entry and dismissal.