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Evanston mom recounts horror of shots being fired into backyard, critically wounding daughter’s friend

EVANSTON, Ill. (CBS) — They couldn’t even cut the cake.

A 14-year-old Evanston girl’s birthday party was interrupted by gunfire – and one of her best friends was shot.

For the first time, the mother of the birthday girl spoke out Wednesday. She hopes the community will rally around her daughter’s friend, Marie, who was shot in the neck and critically wounded.

The mother, Tika, and her family are forever stained by the seemingly random shooting—and they are also still in fear. The suspected gunman is still on the loose after gun violence literally showed up to her family’s backyard.

“I wouldn’t wish that experience on any human being,” said Tika said.

On Monday, July 25, for her 14-year-old daughter’s birthday, Tika transformed her backyard on the west side of Evanston into the party of the teen girl’s dreams.

“We just wanted a small gathering in the backyard – just a couple of kids,” Tika said.

Just after 6 pm, all that was left were the finishing touches.

“So put the lights up, ran upstairs to change my work shirt, and then the horror began,” Tika said.

Not even 20 minutes in, Tika heard what she thought were balloons popping. They weren’t balloons popping—they were gunshots.

“Then immediately, I’m like, ‘No, this is not that!'” Tika said. “I literally slide down the stairs.”

An unknown and uninvited guest opened fire over the fence in Tika’s backyard – into the crowd of 12 kids – and ran off. Tika rushed to get all the kids away.

“There’s not one child you’re trying to grab,” Tika said. “You’re trying to grab all of them to safety.”

But after getting all the kids in the house, Tika said, “Someone’s missing.”

It was her daughter’s best friend, Marie. She had been shot in the neck.

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Marie

Supplied to CBS 2

“Right now, she is fighting for her life,” Tika said.

Two weeks later, Marie is still on life support.

Police said the shooting was not random, but Marie was not the intended target. Why the shooter showed up to the Tika’s family’s home is still not clear.

“This is a 13-year-old girl who is not going to be going to school in a couple days,” Tika said.

Marie’s family is from Rwanda. English is their second language.

Marie’s mom only asks Tika for prayers.

“I can understand when she says, ‘Please pray for Marie,'” Tika said. “I know that’s not all she needs, but that’s all she’s asking for.”

Tika is now calling for the community to rally around Marie and her family – as a group of Evanston teens are now yet another young group of kids forever touched by gun violence.

“When people think about Marie and all of the kids, and that they’re praying for our community and they’re praying for our kids – because you could never fathom this could happen on your street; your block,” Tika said.

Evanston police are still investigating, but there were no suspects in custody Wednesday night.

Tika is now advocating for Marie’s family, and has set up a GoFundMe to help with medical expenses. You can find the GoFundMe at this link.

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