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Supt. McCarthy: We have strong leads in slaying of 7-year-old in Austin

Heaven Sutt7 years old died after she was shot yard her home 1728 N. LunAustneighborhood Thursday June 28 2012 .

Heaven Sutton, 7 years old, died after she was shot in yard of her home at 1728 N. Luna, in the Austin neighborhood, Thursday, June 28, 2012 . | John H. White~Sun-Times.

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Updated: July 30, 2012 6:19AM

“Mom, I want to move. I don’t want to stay here.”

Seven-year-old Heaven Sutton was scared to live in her North Austin neighborhood. She begged her mom to leave. Gunfire rang out too often.

When it did, the second-grader would call her mother from the floor of their home. “Mommy, they shooting. They shooting,” she’d cry.

Ashake Banks had taught Heaven and her three sons, if you hear shots, drop to the floor. Get to the back of the room.

On Wednesday night, mother and daughter were together in the front yard of their home in the 1700 block of North Luna. Heaven had just finished selling candy under a canopy on the lawn and was playing with some other kids when the latest shots rang out. Two gunman approached and began firing at the group. Banks heard at least five shots.

Heaven ran from the candy table to her home, but was hit in the back with a bullet. She screamed for her mother — “Mommy! Mommy!”

Banks, her ears still ringing from the shots, found her on the ground. “When she called my name, I knew she was scared,” she said. “I just couldn’t get to her. By the time I got there, she was just lifeless. She died in my arms.”

Police say an ongoing feud between warring gangs — the 4 Corner Hustlers and the Maniac Insane Vice Lords — is to blame for the stray shot that hit Heaven. There had been no arrests by Thursday night, but Supt. Garry McCarthy said his investigators have “incredibly strong leads.”

“We have really, really strong leads and evidence already,” McCarthy said. “The fact is, we were quickly able to identify who the gang members are who were involved in this particular dispute, which two factions, who the members are. We’re going to turn this around very quickly.”

McCarthy, who is battling a spike in homicides in Chicago this year, called the young girl’s slaying “another tragedy in this city.”

“It’s going to stop, but it’s not going to stop today and it’s not going to stop tomorrow,” McCarthy said. “It’s going to stop over time. ...

“The shooting numbers are coming down. That leaves little solace to anyone who has to deal with violence like this, so don’t get me wrong on that. ...The fact is it’s going to take a long time before anybody ever declares victory in this war — and that’s exactly what it is.”

Banks said Mayor Rahm Emanuel called her twice Thursday to assure her Heaven’s killer would be arrested.

“He said, ‘Don’t worry we’re going to get him,’ ” Banks said, expressing gratitude for the show of support. Emanuel told her: “Heaven shouldn’t have died the way she did,” she said.

Banks, 38, said she thinks the intended gang target was someone nearby.

“I’m not planning to go to sleep until he’s in jail,” she said. “He took her life, so he should do life. I want him brought to justice so we can just rest and I can just know my kids are safe.”

But she plans to move from the neighborhood.

“Because once they get arrested and go to jail, they still got friends who are going to do the same thing. They never learn,” she said. “They can have it over here. If they want to keep killing and shooting, that’s on them. They’re not going to take no more of my kids.”

Heaven had talked to her mother about dying after two family dogs died. She already understood death—and said she had too much to do first.

“She was afraid to die,” Banks said.

Heaven was going to be a second-grader at Josephine Locke Elementary School and Banks described her as a “diva” who loved fashion and high heels.

She liked going to beauty shop to get her hair done, but not in the style her mom wanted. “She’d come back with her hair the way she wanted. She wanted her nails done the way she wanted,” Banks said.

The little girl, who was supposed to be bound for Disney World July 18, playfully teased her three older brothers that she was her mom’s favorite. “ ‘ I’m the favorite, I’m her girl,’ ” Banks said. “That’s my baby.”

“She was smart enough to be 20 years old. She was before her time,” Banks said. “She was an awesome little girl.”

When Supt. McCarthy was asked what he would tell parents of young children concerned about the deadly violence in the city, McCarthy said he takes such shootings “personally.”

“I’m concerned about a 7-year-old being shot, that’s really the answer,” McCarthy said. “I take every one of these shootings personally and that’s a pretty big weight to bear, I gotta tell you.”

Contributing: Victoria Johnson

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