BRIDGETON, N.J. (AP) — A 9-year-old girl was shot and killed by a stray bullet as she slept in her bed early Tuesday, and authorities urged witnesses to come forward to help find the killer.
The shooting happened around 12:30 a.m. about a block away from the girl's home in Bridgeton, a city of about 25,000, roughly 40 miles south of Philadelphia.
The shots struck several vehicles, and a stray bullet went through the home's rear wall and into a bedroom where it hit the girl, identified as Jennifer Trejo.
Relatives drove her to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead a short time later, police said.
"We need the public's help in general, but when an incident such as this happens to such a young and innocent victim we could really use the assistance in bringing those responsible to justice immediately," said Bridgeton Police Chief Mike Gaimari.
He said police have interviewed dozens of people and urged witnesses to come forward with any information about the shooting.
"We hope this hits the heartstrings in the community that enough is enough," he said.
Community members gathered Tuesday afternoon outside the home where the girl lived, on a street a neighbor said was a neutral zone between two feuding gangs.
Jalana Walker lives on the same street, and told the Daily Journal that she was struck in the right leg by gunfire last summer.
Walker began to cry as she talked about the state of her neighborhood.
"It's the same stuff over and over, and it's sad," Walker said, saying innocent people keep getting hurt. "It really does have to stop, because it hurts."
Deacon Arnaldo Santos, of Bridgeton's Parish of the Holy Cross, told the newspaper that he is helping the family plan funeral services for Jennifer.
"The family needs privacy at this time, and right now we're just working through everything with them," Santos said. "It's a very difficult time and the family is asking the community for love. That's what they really need."