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Chicago gang member charged in March shooting death of infant

By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A Chicago gang member with a lengthy arrest record was charged in the death of a 6-month-old girl who was shot while sitting on the lap of her father, who allegedly was the intended target, Chicago police said on Monday.

Koman Willis, 33, was charged with first-degree murder in the March 11 shooting of Jonylah Watkins, police said. Willis, who police said had 38 previous arrests, also was charged with aggravated battery for shooting the father, Jonathan Watkins, who survived the attack.

Willis had been targeting Jonathan Watkins, 29, as he and his daughter sat in a minivan "in retaliation for a stolen video game system," said Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy at a news conference.

"Jonylah was obviously not the intended target," McCarthy said.

Police say the single bullet that struck the baby made its way to five organs in her body.

Gang fighting has taken a toll on some predominantly African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods of Chicago, with the city surpassing 500 homicides in 2012 for the first time since 2008.

Among the victims this year was a high school girl who had performed with her school band as pat of President Barack Obama's inauguration. The death of Hadiya Pendleton, 15, who was gunned down in January at a park about a mile away from the Obamas' Chicago home, focused national attention on Chicago's murder rate.

(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Bill Trott)

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