It has been an especially violent year in Chicago. The murder rate is up a terrifying 37 percent, and the number of people killed this year so far was at 252—until last night when a seven-year-old girl became the 253rd murder victim of the year. Heaven Sutton was with her mother selling snow cones and candy at a little stand outside their home. They were just about to close up shop when two men approached and started shooting. Heaven was hit in the chest and died, and a 19-year-old man nearby was also hit in the leg but survived. Police have said they have leads but have not yet arrested a suspect. There were other kids in the area but they ran and were not hurt.
Gang activity has been unusually high recently, with most of the murders happening on the South side and on the West side, where Heaven lived. And what makes this story all the more heartbreaking is that Heaven's mother, Ashake Banks, said in an interview the her daughter had badly wanted to leave the neighborhood because of the violence, begging, "Mom, let's move, I want to move, Mom, I'm so anxious." Oh, God. If that doesn't deflate you and cause water to stream from your eyes, I don't know what will. Heaven, who was going to be in second grade next year, was apparently looking forward to a planned family vacation to Disneyland next month, and Banks was planning to move the family after they got back. How devastating now that Heaven won't get to do any of that. Banks also publicly urged Heaven's killer to turn himself in, saying, "she didn't have to die because he was trying to kill somebody else." Indeed, this kind of crime is the very definition of senseless. As for how Heaven will be remembered, a family friend says, "Heaven was a very nice child. She was just her name: Heaven. That's who she was."