A rash of shootings in Chicago and Atlanta marred the Fourth of July weekend and left the families of three children grieving over their deaths.
At least 72 people were shot in Chicago since early Friday morning -- 15 fatally -- including a 7-year-old girl who was visiting her grandmother on the holiday, according to police.
"When families should be celebrating, having a good time, spending time together, a 7-year-old girl was taken from us," Chief of Detectives Fred Waller of the Chicago Police Department said at a news conference. "A 7-year-old girl who was here visiting her grandmother, visiting her family, and now she's gone."
The shooting unfolded around 7 p.m. on Saturday as the girl, identified by authorities as Natalie Wallace, was playing with other children and family in front of her grandmother's house in the Austin neighborhood on the west side of Chicago, Waller said. Several men arrived in a light-colored car, got out and began firing in the direction of Natalie and her relatives, Waller said.
The little girl was hit in the forehead by a bullet.
She was taken to Stroger Hospital of Cook County, where she was pronounced dead.
"It was a family gathering, so there were many kids," Waller said. "There were kids riding on bicycles enjoying the Fourth of July, as they have should have been, and now this child is gone."
No arrests have been made in the killing.
"Tonight, a 7-year-old girl in Austin joined a list of teenagers and children whose hopes and dreams were ended by the barrel of a gun," Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot wrote on Twitter Saturday night.
Hours later, a 14-year-old boy was among four people shot to death at a large holiday gathering in the Englewood neighborhood on the south side of the city, police said. The child, whose name has not been released, was shot in the back and then taken to Comer Children's Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, according to police.
Police said the shooting happened around 11:35 p.m., when four men walked up to the gathering and opened fire. Four other people were wounded in the incident, including an 11-year-old boy who was shot in the leg and ankle and a 15-year-old boy who was shot in the abdomen, according to police.
No arrests have been made.
A 10-year-old girl was also wounded in a shooting early Sunday morning in the Rogers Park neighborhood on the far north side of Chicago, police said. The girl was standing in a hallway of her apartment building, when just after 1 a.m., a man fired multiple shots from outside and a bullet penetrated a door and grazed the girl's hand, police said. A 48-year-old woman who was with the girl at the time was shot in both legs and taken to a hospital, where she was treated and in serious condition, according to police.
Chicago has been in the throes of what Mayor Lightfoot has described as a "gun violence epidemic."
The latest carnage in the Windy City came after a 20-month-old boy and a 10-year-old girl were among 14 people shot to death in Chicago last weekend, when 40 more were wounded.
More than 100 people were shot, 14 fatally over the Father's Day weekend, and on May 31, Chicago police investigated 18 homicides, the most the city has seen in a single day in 60 years.
Meanwhile, an 8-year-old girl was killed in Atlanta on Saturday night when someone opened fire on a car she was riding in with her mother and another adult, police said.
The Atlanta Police Department said a preliminary investigation found that the shooting happened about 9:50 p.m., when the person driving the car the girl was in attempted to pull into a parking lot and was confronted by a "group of armed individuals" who blocked the entrance.
"At some point, someone in that group opened fire on the vehicle, striking it multiple times and striking the child who was inside," police said in a statement.
The driver immediately drove to Atlanta Medical Center, where the girl, whose name was not immediately released, was pronounced dead, police said.
No arrests have been made in the shooting.
Atlanta police also said that more than a dozen people were shot during a large street party held to watch a firework display in the northeast part of the city. Around 1 a.m., a vehicle struck a pedestrian near the party and a fight erupted between a number of people, according to police.
"The altercation escalated to multiple shots being fired by multiple people," police said in a statement. "At this time, it appears a total of 14 people were struck by gunfire in that area. All victims were taken to area hospitals by private vehicles."
Authorities said two of those wounded in the incident were in critical condition, while 12 were in stable condition.
"At this time, investigators are working to identify all involved parties and determine the circumstances surrounding the shooting," the police statement reads.
An unrelated incident in northeast Atlanta left and man and a woman with gunshot wounds after they confronted a group of people who had been discharging fireworks outside a residence, police said.
At some point during the confrontation, shots were fired and both victims were struck," police said in a statement, adding that both victims were in stable condition at Grady Memorial Hospital In Atlanta.
Police officials said detectives were working Sunday to sort out the circumstances of the shooting and identify suspects.