By ELIZABETH CZAPSKI
Homicide Watch Chicago
When Jessica Sanchez got the call that her two brothers and her close friend, Natalia Ramirez, had been shot, she “instantly broke down.”
“All I kept thinking was, ‘Just please let them all survive,’” Sanchez said.
Sanchez’s brothers survived the shooting. Ramirez, a 27-year-old mother of two boys, did not.
The shooting occurred in the early hours of Jan. 22 in the Brighton Park neighborhood on the Southwest Side.
About 3:15 a.m., the three victims were inside a vehicle parked in the 3800 block of South St. Louis. Another car pulled up, and a gunman got out and fired at least 16 shots into the vehicle before driving away, according to Chicago Police.
Ramirez was shot in the head, and was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where she died at 4:02 a.m., police and the Cook County medical examiner’s office said.
A 22-year-old man who was shot in the back was also taken to Mount Sinai, police said. And a 28-year-old man was shot in the hip, and was taken to Stroger Hospital. Both of their conditions were stabilized.
Ramirez was dating Sanchez’s younger brother, and the pair went to Sanchez’s older brother’s house the night of the shooting for “just more drinks, [and] to sit down and play cards,” after going out for a friend’s birthday, Sanchez said. “I guess it happened as they were walking into the house.”
“It was…a triple-whammy for me,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez added that Ramirez had no gang ties, and, as far as she knows, the shooting was random.
Ramirez and Sanchez, 25, met through a mutual friend when Sanchez was 13 and had been friends ever since. Sanchez called her “Sissy” because of their close relationship.
“She was more like a sister after she started dating my brother, because she was always at my house,” Sanchez said.
Other nicknames Ramirez had included “Natdizzle” and “Litty.”
“She was always so bubbly and full of life,” Sanchez said. “Of course she had her bad days, but she never really showed it. She always kept her head on straight. She’d make you laugh if you were having the worst day ever.”
Justin Lewis, a friend and former neighbor of Ramirez, said she “was always smiling.”
“If she was upset about something, she found a way to smile about it at the same time,” he said. “She was a very, very nice person. She cared about everybody a lot, and she always made sure that she was there to help if you need it.”
More than anything, Sanchez said, Ramirez devoted herself to her sons, Julius and Alexander.
“Her kids were her life,” she said. “She did everything for them, no matter what it was.”
Lewis said her kids were all Ramirez talked about, “whether it was doing stuff with them, how proud she was of them, how proud she was to be their mother … they were her world.”
Sanchez said Ramirez worked hard to support her children. “Straight from work she’d pick them up, take them to the park, take them to get ice cream—she spoiled them boys. No matter what they wanted, they always got everything they wanted.”
Ramirez was an employee of the UIC College of Dentistry, a school spokesman confirmed. She had worked in the Central Sterilization area of the school since May 2016, according to Dr. Susan Rowan, associate dean of clinical affairs.
“Natalia was a dedicated member of the college, serving students, faculty and colleagues. Natalia had a great impact on the college community, and we are greatly saddened by her passing. Natalia’s smiling face and friendly ways will be missed by all,” Rowan said.
A GoFundMe page was created to support Ramirez, and the funds will help Julio Martinez, the father of her sons. The page has raised more than $9,000—with an original goal of $1,000—as of Feb. 27.
“Natalia Ramirez is a mother of two young boys, she is a hard working, joyous woman who endears herself to everyone she encounters, and who has become an integral part of the UIC College of Dentistry,” the GoFundMe page says.
“It is rare for us that work with her to ever see her without an ear-to-ear smile on her face. She will live on in the hearts of her two young children, her family, her friends, and all of us at the UIC College of Dentistry.”
“She was loved by everybody,” Sanchez said.