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Bullet tears through school bus on S. Side

Shots were fired Our Lady Guadalupe School bus Friday Sept. 7 2012. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

Shots were fired at the Our Lady of Guadalupe School bus Friday, Sept. 7, 2012. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: October 9, 2012 3:01PM

The Villaruel brothers hopped on the yellow school bus Friday morning as usual.

It stopped right in front of their South Deering house at about 7:45 a.m., and rolled out once Adrian, 11, and Oscar, 8, made their way to the back.

Their mom, Rosana Villaruel, was watching from the front door when everyone heard something snap.

“Like running over a tree branch,” Adrian explained Friday after returning home from Our Lady of Guadalupe School.

“I thought it was something like his tire popped, or he ran over a big bottle of glass,” his mother said. “I didn’t realize it was actually a shooting.”

She didn’t find out a bullet was fired until the school called her later that morning.

Police said it appears that the bus had not been targeted but had been accidentally caught in crossfire in a possible shootout in the 10600 block of South Calhoun Avenue.

Inside the bus, Adrian said, two windows broke, and glass fell in. Children began to scream.

“I was just really worried,” he said. His brother, a third-grader, sat across from him.

The driver pulled over after another block or so to check the window, the sixth-grader said. He returned to his seat, made a phone call and drove straight to the school about two miles away at 9050 S. Burley. He didn’t stop to pick up the last children on his route.

“It was kind of scary cause we didn’t see it coming,” Adrian said after school Friday. “Once it hit the window, we all thought it was a BB gun but later on in the day we found out it was a real bullet.

“That’s all I know.”

Nobody ­—not the driver nor the 20-some children riding the bus to the Catholic grade school — was hurt, either by the alleged gunshot or by glass from the broken window.

School Principal Carl Ploense was grateful no one was injured.

“This is Our Lady of Guadalupe School,” he said. “She’s looking out for us.”

School officials answered police questions Friday; “The school’s administration is actively working with the Chicago Police Department and the Office of Catholic Schools on this matter,” read a statement released by the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Two windows gaped in the long yellow bus parked outside the school Friday, one on either side, halfway back. The bullet appeared to have hit a driver’s side window and passed through a seat on the passenger’s side before exiting through a passenger side window. A vinyl seat had a neat hole in its back and another oozing stuffing in its side closest to the broken window.

The bus driver, a 37-year-veteran, declined to comment outside the school.

Police believe shots had been fired even before the bus came into the path of gunfire.

And while the area around 106th and Calhoun has a gang problem, it was not immediately clear if the shooting was gang-related.

“Over here they shoot all the time,” Adrian and Oscar’s grandmother, Lucy Reyes, 53, said.

The sound of gunshots is common in the neighborhood, neighbors said. Bullet holes pockmark Reyes’ house around the door and second-story windows.

“They shoot over there, and they shoot over there,” she said, pointing up and down the street from her doorstep. ”That’s not new.”

What appeared to be a fresh bullet hole joined older holes on a garage near where the bus was stopped outside the family’s home.

Villaruel never thought twice about putting her children on the bus. She used to drive them, but changed her mind this year after the boys asked her to let them ride. It’s convenient, she said, picking them up and dropping them off right out front. And they scamper a little faster in the morning knowing the bus will leave if they’re not ready.

They’re eager to get back on Monday, she said.

“At first they were a little scared,” their mother said, “but it’s not going to stop them from taking the bus.

“I was afraid they weren’t going to want to take the bus any more.”

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