CHICAGO — While driving north Tuesday on bustling Lake Shore Drive, heading home after getting a COVID-19 vaccination shot at a South Side Walgreens, a Gold Coast man suddenly caught sight of a crash near Monroe Drive.
As he moved closer, he saw a woman crawling out of a car that had crashed, holding a small boy, he told the Tribune on Wednesday during a phone interview.
“My baby’s been shot! My baby’s been shot!” she screamed, while grasping the motionless toddler in one arm and frantically waving her free arm to try and flag down someone, anyone.
The man, who had his driver’s side window down on his Tesla because it was so warm, said there were gawkers who drove past and then sped away. But the man, who requested that he not be identified, said his adrenaline kicked in.
“I didn’t get out of the car. It wasn’t much of a conversation. I remember her pleading: ‘Help me!’” said the man.
“Just jump in. I will help you get to the hospital,” he told the woman, who police later said was the boy’s grandmother.
A man was also with them, and with the three in his back seat, his only focus then was finding the fastest route to Northwestern Memorial Hospital several blocks away.
Police said Tuesday that the 21-month-old boy, who has been identified as Kayden Swann, had been shot in the head during a road-rage incident that began farther south on Lake Shore Drive. The shooting took place near Roosevelt Road, and the car the boy was in crashed near Monroe, police said.
The “unanimated” baby, wrapped in a blanket or towel, wasn’t crying or moving, the man said, and he could only see his torso and legs.
As he pulled into the tunnel area at the emergency room at Northwestern, they leaped out and staffers rushed to help them into the hospital.
That was the last time he saw them together, though the man later thanked him.
Kayden remained in very critical condition Wednesday in the pediatric ICU at Lurie Children’s Hospital, where he had been taken Tuesday from Northwestern. He was in a medical coma to protect his brain and was on a ventilator, Dr. Marcelo Malakooti, associate chief medical officer and medical director of the pediatric ICU at Lurie’s, said at a news conference Wednesday.
He has a severe brain injury. His condition had not worsened between Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon, though Malakooti said he remained “incredibly ill.”
“The fact that he hasn’t worsened, I would say, provides us with a cautious hope,” he said.
The man who was driving the Tesla told the Tribune he didn’t want to leave the hospital after transporting the boy there.
“The excitement level was pretty high and my adrenaline was running,” he said.
After what seemed about two minutes, two Chicago police officers who knew about the gunfire and crash arrived at the hospital.
He told them what happened, and they were able to gather evidence, including blood from his back seat. The man also shared the video from a dashcam that is installed in his Tesla.
“I’m glad we could get there in time. I didn’t know the baby had been shot in the head. The truth is, as fast as this happened, I have no idea what they even looked like,” he said of his passengers.
The tech professional, in his 40s, said he could not have lived with himself if he didn’t stop.
“I mean, they needed help,” he said. “Ultimately, I could not have that on my conscience. … I could be inconvenienced, and that was the cause of someone’s death?’'
Police said the shooter and the victims did not appear to know each other, but the dispute was believed to be over someone not letting another driver into their lane of traffic.
Kayden was in a child safety seat in the back seat of the car, a white Lincoln, according to a police report that cited preliminary information. His grandmother was in the front passenger seat and her boyfriend was driving.
A witness told police that an SUV and the Lincoln began driving erratically and an altercation started somewhere between 35th Street and 31st Street on Lake Shore Drive, the report said.
Around Roosevelt Road, someone in the SUV began firing shots at the Lincoln, hitting it several times and hitting the boy, the report said. Another witness said the grandmother’s boyfriend returned fire. The grandmother’s boyfriend was arrested at Northwestern Memorial Hospital for having a 9 mm Bersa handgun, the report said.
Police had not announced any charges for the man Wednesday and said no one else was in custody.
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