Family members were devastated by the death of 5-year-old Eric Galarza Jr. of Elgin after he was shot in a car Friday night in what police believe was a gang-related attack.
"It is an irreparable loss," Paula Bahena, Eric's great aunt, said Saturday morning.
The boy, the eldest of three children of Eric and Denisse Galarza, was in the back seat in the 900 block of Elma Avenue at around 7 p.m. Friday when he was shot as the car pulled out of the driveway, police said.
Family members said the car was being driven by Christina Ignacio, Denisse's sister. The father was in the front passenger seat and the mother was in the back seat with Eric; his brother Luis, 2; and his sister, Jayleen, five months.
"The driver heard what sounded like gunshots being fired. Moments later, they noticed the child had been shot," Elgin police spokeswoman Sue Olafson said. "They stopped at a gas station in the 1300 block of Dundee Avenue to call police."
The boy was immediately transported to Sherman Hospital in critical condition. He died a few hours later.
"It's believed that this car was specifically targeted," Elgin Police Chief Jeff Swoboda said in a news release. "We are determined to find those responsible for this incident."
The Elgin police gang unit continues to investigate. Authorities are not releasing the name of the child, but are hoping to release more information before noon Saturday, Olafson said.
Anyone with any information about the shooting is encouraged to call the Elgin police anonymous crime line at (847) 695-4195 or leave an anonymous tip at cityofelgin.org/police.