Moments after two young sisters had gotten into their car seats Sunday afternoon, gunshots rang out. There was chaos and confusion all around, but in the backseat of their parents’ vehicle, the two girls, ages 6 and 7, clung to one another, a relative said.

“They were hugging,” said Regina Broughton, paternal grandmother of Serenity Broughton, 7, who was fatally shot and her little sister, Aubrey, 6, who was wounded. “When they separated and pulled apart, there was blood on both of them.”

Serenity Broughton had been shot in the chest, a bullet clipping her heart, her grandmother said. A bullet also hit Aubrey in the chest, rupturing her lung, Broughton said.

“Aubrey, the bullet ruptured her lung and she had to be intubated,” Regina Broughton said. “Serenity’s injury was fatal. The bullet pierced her heart — she didn’t have a chance.”

The children had been sitting in the vehicle around 2:50 p.m. near their maternal grandmother’s house in the 6200 block of West Grand Avenue in Belmont Central on the Northwest Side. They were rushed to Loyola University Medical Center, where Aubrey Broughton has since been stabilized and moved to the pediatric unit.

“She’s in a lot of pain. They’re keeping her mildly sedated,” said Regina Broughton, who was on the phone with other relatives in the hospital room Sunday night when medical staff was “adjusting the tubes” on the small girl.

“I did hear her speak, which was reassuring, except she was crying out that it hurt,” her grandmother said.

Serenity Broughton was a natural redhead with a radiant smile who “liked everything,” and who would have been starting the first grade at the end of the month.

“She was vibrant. She was inquisitive and very, very intelligent. She was just a bright child, a bright spirit. She took to people, she would talk to everyone. I’d tell her, ‘Don’t talk to strangers,’ but she was always so open, bubbly and welcoming to anyone she came across. Everyone gravitated to her,” Regina Broughton said.

To Aubrey, though, Serenity was simply known as “Honey.” Aubrey had always overheard relatives using the word as a term of endearment and grew up thinking it was her big sister’s name, Regina Broughton said with a short laugh.

“She asked me today where is she and why hasn’t she come to see her,” Regina Broughton shared. “‘Where is Honey?’”

The 6-year-old — who shared a bunk bed with her big sister, in part because she’s afraid of the dark — was asking about her sister visiting because her family wants to consult with an expert about the best time and method of delivering the tragic news, especially because of Aubrey’s compromised physical state, her grandmother said.

Regina Broughton says she has two sons, including the girls’ father, and says she’s “beyond blessed” neither one ever ran with gangs or got into trouble. She said everyone is having a hard time understanding how something like this could happen so randomly.

“So just for someone to do this to these babies, you think about the people who are capable of such a thing. I wonder, what type of animal lives inside of people?” she said. “Because that’s what you’d have to be, an animal. What type of animal could do this?”

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