CHICAGO — Janari Ricks loved math, and showed an aptitude for it, learning his multiplication tables early and reciting them easily, his parents said.

"He was an excellent student," his mother, Jalisa Ford, said. "He was an honor roll child."

Janari, 9, shined in school, and was going to be in fourth grade this fall. He loved sports, and his beaming face was a regular sight in the Cabrini Green neighborhood where he lived, family and friends said.

On Friday evening, Janari was playing with friends behind the Cabrini Green townhomes in the 900 block of North Cambridge Avenue when a gunman opened fire into a parking lot around 6:45 p.m., striking and killing the boy, an unintended target Chicago police said. Police officials said they did not know who the target was.

He was rushed to Lurie Children's Hospital where he died.

On Saturday morning, a memorial for the boy grew larger, as friends and neighborhood residents dropped off small items. Candles and glitter sat on the sidewalk, and blue and green balloons with grinning sharks were tied to weights on the ground.

A bouquet of flowers sat near a small football with "Janari" written on its side.

Janari's father, Raymond Ricks, looked at some of the items as a soft rain began to fall. Friends and family walked over and embraced him, carrying a large black umbrella.

"We always played basketball," Ricks said, recalling his son's love of all kinds of sports.

Ricks had boarded a flight to Atlanta when he received a call about his son, and rushed off the plane, he said. He joined family and friends at Lurie.

Ford was inside her home while her son played with friends nearby, when she heard about the shooting from a neighbor. She said she ran to the parking lot and saw Janari on the ground.

"I was talking to him, just talking to him," Ford said, beginning to cry.

Jasmine Hines, a close friend of Ford's, received a call just after she got home from working security.

Hines rushed to the hospital, but was at a loss as to how support Ford.

"How do you give her strength?" Hines said.

Hines has six children, including a 9-year-old boy. She loved Janari like a son. "When is this s--- going to stop?"

Mayor Lori Lightfoot addressed the shooting in a thread of tweets, calling for federal gun control measures and social services to address gun violence.

"Gun violence is every bit a public health crisis as COVID-19," she wrote. "It's well past time that we as a nation begin aggressively treating it through wraparound services, mental health supports and street outreach interventions, support for our community police officers, and — yes — federal gun control to keep firearms from falling into the wrong hands."

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