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9-year-old girl killed in Back of the Yards mass attack was ‘the princess of the family’

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Ariana Molina was with family celebrating a confirmation Saturday night when shots were fired. Ten people, including Ariana’s mother, were wounded. Police blame gangs for the shooting.
Saturday should have been a joyous one for Alejandra Velasquez and her family. They started their afternoon in church for a relative’s confirmation and later gathered to celebrate outside her in-laws’ Back of the Yards home.
But just before they cut the cake, gunfire erupted, killing a 9-year-old girl and wounding three boys and seven adults.
“It just came out of nowhere,” Velasquez said. She dropped to the ground when she heard the shots. Blood was everywhere, parents cried out for their children, car windows shattered, the cake flew.
Ariana Molina, Velasquez’s niece and goddaughter, was killed. Velasquez was standing in front of Ariana when she was shot in the head.
“It’s hard to see her a few minutes before playing with my son. And then to see her on the floor not responding,” Velasquez said Sunday afternoon, standing across the street from where the shooting happened.
Relatives were still gathered together on the block Sunday, sitting in stunned silence and sobbing and holding each other. Many of the family live on the street, including Velasquez, Ariana’s family and both of Ariana’s grandmothers.
A banner with balloons reading “God bless” in gold lettering was hung on one of the houses. A small memorial with a cross and pink balloons and votive candles honored Ariana and the others on the sidewalk.
“The people who did this did not have a heart, they hurt innocent people,” Ariana’s grandmother said in Spanish between sobs.
Two brothers, ages 1 and 8, were also shot several times in the abdomen and hospitalized in critical condition, according to Velasquez and Chicago police.

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