A young Chicago woman was shot to death Monday, just weeks after being crowned winner of a renowned modeling contest and only blocks from where a 9-year-old boy was gunned down hours earlier.
Kaylyn Pryor, winner of Mario Tricoci’s 2015 "Mario, Make Me a Model" competition, was standing outside with a 15-year-old boy in the 7300 block of South May Street around 6:20 p.m. Monday in the city’s Englewood neighborhood when a vehicle pulled up and opened fire, according to police.
Both 20-year-old Pryor and the boy were shot, police said, and the car drove off. The two were rushed to Advocate Christ Medical Center, where the teen survived and is in critical condition, police said. Pryor was pronounced dead. Police said Pryor’s fatal gunshot wound was a hit to the right armpit, while the teen was struck in the scrotum.
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Pryor’s father told NBC 5 his daughter was leaving her grandparents’ house in the neighborhood and walking to the bus stop to travel back to their Evanston home to sign a modeling contract at the time of the shooting. He said the teen she was with was not a close friend and just a boy from the neighborhood.
"I didn't know she had died. It really took me a while to get to the hospital," her father Alan Scott said. "I just hoped and prayed it wasn't so bad."
Police do not believe Pryor was the intended target in the shooting, but it is likely the gunfire was in some way gang-related. It is still unclear if the teen she was standing with at the time of the shooting had ties to a gang, police said, or if he was intentionally targeted.
Her death comes just over a month after the Evanston native was crowned winner of a modeling contest, which ended with a Sept. 25 celebration and fashion show at the Redmoon Warehouse in Chicago, with more than 1,000 supporters and fans in attendance.
The man behind the contest, Italian native Mario Tricoci, began his fashion and beauty career in Europe before sweeping the Chicago-area with his first salon in Villa Park, Illinois. He now has more than 13 salons and day spas throughout the city and suburbs.
“We are saddened and broken-hearted to learn of the tragic passing of Kaylyn Pryor. Our hearts and prayers go out to her family," Tricoci said in a statement Tuesday morning. "This touches every one of us who knew and worked with her. Kaylyn will be remembered for her kind and generous spirit. She truly was beautiful inside and out.”
According to her profile on the annual contest's website, Pryor enjoyed dancing, choreography, poetry and drawing, in addition to modeling. Her grief-stricken father, still coming to terms with his daughter’s death, said her recent contest win was just one of the many things his bubbly, energetic daughter was looking forward to in her bright future.
Modeling was something that came natural to the ambitious woman, he said, and was unexpected. She never took classes but stumbled upon Tricoci’s contest and decided to enter, ultimately garnering enough votes to take home the grand prize.
Following the win, Pryor signed with Factor Modeling Agency and was going to school at Robert Morris University’s Illinois campus with her sights set on becoming a paralegal.
"Everyone loved her," he said, citing her infectious and warm personality that drew others in.
Hundreds took to social media Tuesday morning to express despair over her sudden passing.
"So sad that she dies from senseless gun violence when just weeks ago she won this bright promising modeling," one tweet read.
"I honestly can not fathom a reason that a person can take another person's life. I'm sick," said another. "Rip Kaylyn Pryor. You did not deserve this."
The deadly shooting occurred less than two hours later and only blocks away from where a fourth-grader was shot and killed after coming home from elementary school.
"Gun violence in Chicago is not a joke," her sister Chantal Pryor said. "It's taking away all the innocent, talented kids and for what?"
"She's a gun violence statistic," her father said.
Just last week, President Barack Obama addressed the gun violence afflicting his hometown and urged cooperation between police officers and communities.
Obama listed statistics about lower crime rates nationwide, saying the crime rate across the country is now half of what it was 20 years ago - except in some cities, like Chicago, where violent crime has increased.
"I live on the South Side of Chicago, so my house is pretty close to some places where shootings take place," Obama said. "Because that's real, we have to get on top of it before it becomes an accelerating trend."
In September, the city saw one of its most violent months in years, with two consecutive weekends of more than 50 people shot. In a single day, on Sept. 2, nine people were killed and at least 12 others were wounded in shootings across the city, making it the deadliest day in the city in over a decade.