Twelve-year-old Kanari Gentry Bowers was playing basketball Saturday night with a few classmates at an elementary school court in West Englewood when the sound of gunfire sent the children scattering.
Minutes later, Kanari’s relatives received an unnerving phone call.
“Her friend had called around 7:20 looking for her, asking ‘Did she make it home?'” said Kanari’s cousin, Patricia Donald. “I said ‘No.’ And then, around 7:40, they called me and said Kanari’s shot.”
Thirty minutes later and 4 miles away, Takiya Holmes, 11, was sitting in a parked car with her mother, aunt and 3-year-old brother in front of a Parkway Gardens’ cleaners when a stray bullet hit the car. After ordering the group to get down, Takiya’s mother asked if everyone was all right.
“Everyone responded but Takiya,” her grandmother, Patsy Holmes, said.
On Sunday afternoon, the girls, both shot in the head, were clinging to life at local hospitals as their families struggled to comprehend the recklessness of the shooters. Police say they were unintended targets in separate incidents.
“I don’t know what’s going to stop this …” Kanari’s aunt, Rochetta Tyler, said outside Stroger Hospital. “Don’t nobody know. But we’re steady losing our kids, 11 and 12. Oh my God! Whoever did this, they should turn themselves in. … These babies didn’t even live their life. They were in grammar school. Beefin’ ain’t even that serious.”
Kanari was shot around 7:15 p.m. Saturday while playing with friends at Henderson Elementary School in the 1900 block of West 57th Street. Takiya was hit by a bullet in the 6500 block of South King Drive as her mother was trying to give a ride to a friend who worked at the cleaners.
No one was in custody in either shooting Sunday evening, according to police.
In 2016, Chicago had 784 homicides and 4,367 shootings, according to data compiled by the Tribune. Of that number, 76 children younger than 15 were shot in the city, three of them fatally. Many of them weren’t intended targets or gang members, but were simply caught in the path of bullets. So far this year, shootings are up about 8 percent from 2016, and homicides are down about 20 percent.
Kanari’s uncle, Djuan Donald, joined the chorus of grieving, angry relatives seeking solutions to the city’s surging gun violence.
“Kids can’t even play in a school playground,” Djuan Donald said. “That was my ‘moo moo.’ That’s what we called each other. … She didn’t deserve none of this. I want some answers. Please stop; put down these guns. Ya’ll are taking our lives from us. And it hurts. … Over a piece of street that doesn’t belong to you? Ya’ll fighting over squads, cliques and gangs?
On at least three occasions, paramedics and hospital staff couldn’t detect Kanari’s heartbeat, prompting them to take measures to revive her.
“She’s fighting,” Tyler said as tears rolled down her face. “From the time she got shot, she was pronounced dead. She came back. She died again. She came back. From 6 a.m. this morning, her heart stopped three times. I don’t know what the outcome is going to be, but everyone just needs to pray.”
Though gunfire wasn’t foreign to Kanari, who lived with her grandparents about a block from the scene of the shooting, her relatives were stunned by the news.
“My grandmother is very strict on us about where we go, about what music we listen to,” said Donald, 20. “We are like house kids. So Kanari was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Kanari knows (if there’s) gunfire, duck. She’s never been this close to gunfire.
“Now, she’s just upstairs fighting and I’m not going to leave her side,” Donald added, waiting outside the emergency wing of the hospital.
Meanwhile, at Comer Children’s Hospital, family members held the hand of Takiya, a fifth-grader and perennial honor roll student at Theophilus Schmid Elementary School in Cottage Grove Heights. Relatives said they were told by doctors that Takiya’s prognosis was “not good.” But dozens of relatives, friends and community members came to the hospital to pray for a positive outcome, including Pastor Corey Brooks, whose church is one block from where the shooting took place.
“I am leaving the hospital now saddened by this horrific situation,” Brooks wrote on his Facebook page Saturday night. “Just when I thought things were getting better, I realize now we still have more work to do and a neighborhood to transform!!!!”
For Holmes, who picked up Takiya from school regularly and visited her every other week, it was hard to grasp the situation. She needed to hear the news three times before it registered.
“I just can’t believe it,” said Holmes, who had dropped Takiya off at home Friday. “She said ‘Bye, big momma. I love you.’ I told her, ‘See you Monday.'”
Holmes enjoyed baking desserts with her granddaughter, who she described as an “active, jovial child” with “eyes and dimples that will set your heart on fire.”
“My granddaughter, that’s my heart. That’s my only grandchild,” Holmes said.
Anti-violence activist Andrew Holmes, a distant cousin of Takiya’s, offered a $1,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest in her case. He urged members of the community and possible witnesses to phone in tips to a hotline: 800-883-5587.
The Chicago Police Department is also asking those with tips to call Area South detectives.
Chicago Tribune’s Nereida Moreno contributed.
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