Police trying to find shooter who put 13-year-old girl in the hospital

FORT PIERCE — Brenda Albury spent Christmas Eve night at the bedside of her goddaughter, but not in the way either of them expected.

The goddaughter, a 13-year-old Pine Creek Village resident, was walking to her apartment with her mother late Monday afternoon when several shots were fired toward them, said Albury, who also lives in the complex but was out of town at the time. A bullet grazed the woman's leg, but her daughter was seriously injured, Albury said.

"I was the first face she saw when she woke up at the hospital," Albury said. "She asked where her mother was, then asked about her sister." The sister had not been hurt.

Detectives said they're still looking for leads in the shooting that happened in the 1200 block of North 27th Street.

A neighbor helped the teenage girl with her gunshot wound Monday until paramedics arrived. She remained hospitalized Tuesday, Fort Pierce police said.

Her mother was treated at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center & Heart Institute in Fort Pierce and was released. Police did not release the names of the injured mother and daughter.

Albury said family members took the girl's Christmas presents to the hospital.

"She didn't want much," the godmother said. "It's tough right now since her mother isn't working."

Neighbors and police said gunfire is not unusual in the neighborhood. Residents estimated a shooting occurs once a month in the area.

Police spokesman Sgt. Dennis McWilliams said Pine Creek is within a 3-mile radius in the northern part of the city where frequent gunfire is prompting the department to seek technology that would help detectives solve more crimes.

Police Chief Sean Baldwin is developing a funding plan for the ShotSpotter system, which involves a series of sensors that detect gunshots. The system costs $120,000 annually, or the city could opt for a three-year plan of $390,000 to get a $30,000 total discount. It also has a one-time startup fee of $70,000. Baldwin is seeking grant money and partnerships for the program.

Through the system, sensors wait for outdoor booms, bangs or pops and then triangulate where the sound occurred. The information is reviewed by the national center in California, and Fort Pierce police officers would know in less than a minute where to go.

For Monday's shooting, ShotSpotter would have provided immediate information about from where the shots came, McWilliams said. Officers determined on their own Monday that the shots were fired from across the street near a church, but the sensor technology would have saved investigators some time.

ShotSpotter would play a bigger role in other investigations, McWilliams said.

"We have cases where people will show up at the hospital and will tell us they were shot at a location other than where it actually happened," McWilliams said. "Some victims are uncooperative and won't tell us anything."

From January until early December, police verified at least 140 instances of gunfire, including people being shot, largely in north Fort Pierce and at night.

There's been one murder and one person critically injured. A third person, a 36-year-old Fort Pierce woman, was found shot at North 25th Street Dec. 8 and later died. Homes and vehicles also have been damaged by bullets. Many cases are unsolved.

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