Sister Jean Matijosaitis says she was working with students after school in Homework Club when they heard gunshots near the Visitation Catholic School in Englewood.
“We listened, but it’s not unusual for us to hear gunshots,” said Sister Jean, principal at the school.
The gunshots were quickly followed by the sound of sirens as police cars streamed past the school, she said.
Sister Jean later learned she had heard shots fired in the death of Endia Martin, 14. A 14-year-old former friend of Martin’s has been charged in the death. The two girls had gotten into a fight over a boy and exchanged angry comments on Facebook, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Before the shooting, the alleged assailant received a gun from her uncle, the Tribune reported. Joined by other friends, she walked back to the home of Martin’s cousin, who was seated on the front porch, according to the Tribune report. Martin was shot in the back as she was attempting to run inside the house, the paper said. A 16-year-old girl seated nearby was also shot in the bicep, according to reports.
Police announced felony charges against the alleged shooter’s uncle and aunt, as well as the owner of the weapon used in the shooting, according to ABC News. A 17-year-old boy was also charged.
The shootings were recorded on a cell phone, which has been turned over to police, according to local press reports.
The name of the alleged shooter is being withheld because she is a juvenile.
Meanwhile, the Englewood neighborhood is grieving. A large memorial, including a sign that said “RIP Endia,” alongside stuffed animals and flowers, was posted on the front lawn of the house where the shooting occurred.
Sister Jean said she talked to the victim’s mother after the shooting.
“I said, ‘What happened? What happened?’” Sister Jean said. “She was crying. She said, ‘They shot my daughter.’ We didn’t know anything more than that until we got home and watched the news.”
Linda Harrington, the school’s vice principal, said many students were at the school either waiting to be picked up or waiting until it was safe to leave when they heard the gunshots.
However, Sister Jean said students did not overreact to the incident.
“They take it seriously,” she said. “You could see a serious look on their face. Nobody was crying or emotional. Some of the parents picking them up were rather emotional.”
Harrington said the school has programs in place designed to steer students away from drugs and violence.
Sister Jean said the school has to keep open for the sake of the children and that the lockdown procedures that the school has would keep students safe.
Harrington said many of the students have experience with gun violence.
“Many of them have been exposed through family members having been shot or killed, so by continuing what we’re doing in the midst of everything and keeping them calm, it’s a little more reassuring,” Harrington said. “None of the students were crying or running or very upset because we kept with the program, we kept calm and that kept them calm.”
Sister Jean said it is adults who make choices, not children, and that children are the ones who suffer from those poor decisions.
“When is this going to end?” she asked. “Is this ever going to be controlled? It’s one thing if you make a choice as an adult. Why would you give that gun to a 14-year-old instead of saying, ‘Calm down, there’s another way to handle this?’”
She said the school community was very sad but that she did not understand why the children had to be the victims.
“Oftentimes it’s a drive-by between two different gang activities, and they’re just inadvertently caught in between, but this in itself didn’t sound like a gang activity,” Sister Jean said.
Harrington and Sister Jean said they did not want the children to grow up and contribute to the high crime rates in the area.
“We try to hopefully make sure that they’re not going to be part of lots of this,” Harrington said. “It’s devastating, it really is, but we have to keep vigilant.”