Police are searching for a brutal attacker, who clubbed a 14-year-old boy in the head on a Logan Square neighborhood street as he walked home from studying with his girlfriend.
As CBS 2's Susanna Song reports, the victim was on life support Wednesday, after he was beaten with a bat or sledge hammer around 9:15 p.m. Tuesday in the 2900 block of West Bloomingdale Avenue.
The stretch of Bloomingdale Avenue where the crime happened is a desolate side street resembling an alley, with the embankment of the now-unused Bloomingdale railroad tracks on one side, and the Yates Elementary School on the other. It is on the cusp between Logan Square and Humboldt Park.
The principal at Yates, 1839 N. Richmond St., identified the boy who was attacked as Brian de Leon, one of his past students, who he says was bright, loving, and wouldn't hurt a fly.
"He graduated near the top of his class; he was just a wonderful, wonderful, loving young man; a child any principal would love to have 800 of," said Yates principal Harry Randell.
Brian was one of a kind, according to principal Randell, who just saw him on Monday. He said brian now a freshman at Phoenix Military Academy, 145 S. Campbell Ave., came by his old school to show off his new ROTC uniform.
"Words can't express how we all feel," Randell said. "We're just I'm praying that he pulls through if at all possible."
Police said Brian and his 14-year-old girlfriend had been at his home doing their homework prior to the incident. After studying, Brian walked her to her home located a few blocks away.
They walked her dog for a while before he left, but they two stayed on the phone until she heard "some kind of commotion," and then the phone went dead, according to Shakespeare District police Capt. Marc Buslik.
At that point, the girl checked on Brian's route home, and found him lying on the sidewalk bleeding from the head, police said.
He had a silver-dollar sized hole in his head from being head from being hit with either a bat or a sledgehammer, and his injuries were so severe that police initially thought he had been shot, the captain said.
Brian's girlfriend called 911. The boy was rushed to Children's Memorial Hospital, where he was on life support early Wednesday, the captain said.
No weapon was found and nothing was taken from Brian. He was not in a gang, and police have no idea why he was targeted, Buslik said.
Following the attack, neighbors were distraught, angry and afraid.
"I've got nine grandkids," said neighbor William Morales. "So far, I just hope he makes it, and someone who saw it says something."
A neighbor who didn't want to show her face said it was quiet in the area Tuesday night until about 20 police cars showed up.
"Oh my God, it's horrible, horrible, just horrible," she said. "You don't want to think things like this happen where you live."
Another area resident, Nicolette, said she was both angry and afraid.
"I'm pretty shocked; I mean, you've got a school right here, and I mean, this is ridiculous. I walk through here every morning. This scares me," she said.
Robert Cole, who works at an electrical company, nearby says his cameras caught some movement and people around the time of the beating. He is handing the video over to police.
"It's senseless. Senseless," he said.
Those who knew Brian say they can't believe such a good kid is now fighting to live.
"I'm surprised, because he went to high school. It's his first year; he's a freshman, did good in school," one boy said.
Principal Randell's voice was urgent as he pleaded for someone to come forward.
"Whoever saw anything or did anything to my child, Brian, please come forward and tell the police. Please, I beg you," he said.
Meanwhile, investigators are going door-to-door talking to neighbors to see if they saw or heard anything.
No arrests had been made as of Wednesday morning and Grand Central Area detectives are investigating.
The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.