Aaren O’Connor was fatally shot in the head on Friday, Feb 5 as she sat in her car speaking to her family on the phone.
Parked a few doors down from her home in the South Side of Chicago, O’Conner, 25, cried out and hung up the phone mid-conversation, causing her father, David O’Conner, concern.
Calling his daughter back, David O’Conner finally reached her as she told him repeatedly that her head hurt, neither of them knowing she had been shot in the back of the head.
Police now believe that O'Connor was hit by a stray bullet as she sat in her Honda Civic. She was declared brain dead on Sunday evening.
While speaking to his daughter for the last time, David O’Conner, who lives in San Diego, became concerned for her welfare.
“She was having trouble speaking. She didn’t know where she was. She kept saying her head hurts, her head hurts. I thought maybe she was having a stroke or something,” he told the Chicago Tribune.
Aaren’s father first contacted her boyfriend and he proceeded to get in contact with her roommate in Chicago. Leaving the apartment to investigate, she found Aaren unresponsive in her car. She was taken to Stroger Hospital.
Her family traveled from San Diego to be by her side. By the time the family arrived on Saturday, however, they were informed she would not make it.
Although declared brain dead on Sunday evening, she was kept on life support so her organs could be donated.
"I would have loved to have told her one more time I loved her and was proud of her,“ Mr O’Connor said. ”She was an amazing girl."
The Chicago Police Department issued an alert on Tuesday evening asking for information on the incident which occurred at approximately 7.30pm on Friday, Feb 5. As of yet no arrests have been made.
The police believe that as someone ran down the street, they turned to shoot a person or people chasing after them and a stray bullet hit Aaren.
The 25-year-old, originally from San Diego, moved to Chicago just a year and a half ago to be closer to her long-distance boyfriend Jose, who she met while traveling.
She worked with the toy company Tomy and had recently been promoted to brand manager for their Pokemon line, her father told the Tribune.
Friends of the young victim established a GoFundMe page to assist the family with funeral costs and within just two days almost $30,000 has been raised.
“Aaren was a beautiful 25 year-old woman who was intelligent, compassionate, caring, and hardworking with a deep love for her friends and family,” her friends say on the fundraising page.
“She had a great sense of humor, love for adventure and a take charge personality. By simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time the world lost an amazing person and all of her potential.”
The fundraisers now plan to use donations to establish a scholarship to assist Chicago’s youth in choosing a non-violent path in honor of Aaren.
“We want to make sure that something positive can come from this senseless tragedy. While trying to solve the gun violence epidemic in Chicago seems like an impossible task, we need to start somewhere,” they write.
“Over time, donations will fund a scholarship program in Aaren’s memory that will serve to bring hope and healing to the youth of Chicago.”
Their suggestions for possible future uses for the donations include a support fund for at-risk Chicago youth who wish to further their education by studying abroad or a more long-term goal of an after-school program at a community center in Aaren’s name, where Chicago’s youth can come together to receive the caring and resources.
Although left reeling with the tragic loss of their daughter, O’Conner is hoping her death will call further attention to Chicago’s gun violence.
“People need to know what’s going on and what kind of loss is taking place here,” he said.
“I want her name and her voice to be the impetus for bringing all this violence to an end. I know that’s asking a lot.”
The young woman's death is just one of at least 17 homicides in Chicago in the first eight days of February, a pace which is set to triple the number of murders in the city from the same time period last year. There have been 70 murders in the city so far this year.