More than 50 people gathered in an alley near Morgan and May streets Friday night to remember and pray for a 13-year-old Joliet boy who was shot and killed in a gun attack that left two other teens wounded the night before.
The attendees, many of whom were friends of the victims, huddled in the alley, where police had found three boys, including Javier Cayetano, 13, with gunshot wounds Thursday night.
Cayetano was shot several times and later died at Amita Health Saint Joseph Medical Center emergency room.
Two other juveniles were also shot and taken to an area hospital for their injuries. They were treated and later released.
Marianna Perez, whose son was friends with Cayetano, held a prayer vigil to mourn “a senseless loss.”
She said Cayetano was “young, a good kid, loved by many friends and adored by his family.”
She prayed for Cayetano’s friends to have the “strength to go on” and be “good-hearted kids” who show each other compassion.
“This is not a game. This is life. This is a precious life that’s gone, and we really need you, Father God. We need you more than ever in our community and in our schools,” Perez said.
Cayetano was in the eighth grade at Dirksen Junior High and attended the Thompson Instructional Center, Joliet District 86 spokeswoman Sandy Zalewski said Friday. The Thompson Center offers supportive programs to students with emotional and social issues, according to the center’s website.
“We’re deeply saddened by this tragedy; we extend our condolences to his family,” Zalewski said.
She said district officials were cooperating with Joliet police, who had asked the district for information on Cayetano.
Social workers were onhand Friday to provide students and staff with support.
Joliet police have been investigating the shooting. They responded to the corner of Morgan and May streets about 7:45 p.m. Thursday after receiving a report of shots fired, according to a news release.
Perez said Cayetano and two other 13-year-old Dirksen students were walking home before the shooting incident, and one of the victims, who wasn’t killed, was on a bicycle. A car apparently pulled out of an alley near Morgan Street, and a person opened fire, she said.
“The problem is these kids are all in gangs, and nothing, in my opinion, is being done,” Perez said. “My son was crying all night. He found out his friend passed.”
Police said the gun attack does not appear to be related to any school incident.
The Will County Coroner’s Office said an autopsy performed Friday revealed Cayetano suffered multiple gunshot wounds.
Police investigators are looking for any activity in the area that might have been captured on surveillance cameras between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Thursday.
Anyone with video footage is encouraged to contact Detective Patrick Schumacher at 815-724-3020, ext. 3039. They can also contact Crimestoppers of Will County at 800-323-6734 if they wish to remain anonymous.
“This is an ongoing investigation and is still in its early stages. The Joliet police is actively looking into what occurred and for those responsible,” police said.
Several residents who live on South May Street near Morgan Street said they saw and heard police activity on Thursday evening, including one resident who said she heard gunshots.
Maria Cortes said she was home Thursday and heard five gunshots about 8 p.m. She said she looked out her bedroom window and saw four or five “guys” screaming and running.
Eva Gomez, who lives with Cortes, said her daughter-in-law called the police after hearing gunshots.
Cortes said she didn’t see or hear anything else that evening.
Luis Hernandez said he was home and saw police cars near the corner of May and Morgan streets about 9:30 p.m., but he didn’t hear gunshots. He said he didn’t know what was going on but saw a lot of police cars.
“It was kind of strange,” Hernandez said.
Kristen Leonard said her husband and children heard a “thump” sound, but it apparently wasn’t like a gunshot. She said she looked out the window and saw police cars, an ambulance and fire truck nearby.
“It seemed like the whole police department was here,” Leonard said.
She said she saw officers running around the fence of one home across the street from her. She also saw officers looking around the street with flashlights.