Stray bullet kills 9-year-old girl sleeping in home

Maya Oppenheim
Bridgeton Mayor Albert Kelly discusses the fatal shooting of the young girl during a news conference at the Bridgeton Police Department: AP

A nine-year-old girl has been fatally shot by a stray bullet while she was sleeping in her bed, authorities have said.

The shooting took place at around 12.30am on Tuesday, about a block away from the young girl's home in Bridgeton - a city near Philadelphia.

The shots hit several vehicles and a stray bullet went through the home's rear wall and into a bedroom, where it struck the young girl.

Police said relatives drove the girl - who has been identified as Jennifer Trejo - to a hospital where she was pronounced dead a short time later.

Authorities issued a plea for witnesses to come forward to try and help find the killer.

Bridgeton Police Chief Mike Gaimari 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."

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 on Tuesday afternoon outside the home where the girl lived, on a street described by a neighbour as a neutral zone between two feuding gangs.

Jalana Walker lives on the same street and told the Daily Journal she was struck in the right leg by gunfire last summer.

Ms Walker started to cry as she talked about the state of her local neighbourhood – saying innocent people keep getting hurt.

She said: "It's the same stuff over and over, and it's sad. It really does have to stop, because it hurts."

Deacon Arnaldo Santos, of Bridgeton's Parish of the Holy Cross, told the paper he is helping the family plan funeral services for Jennifer.

He said: "The family needs privacy at this time, and right now we're just working through everything with them. It's a very difficult time and the family is asking the community for love. That's what they really need."

A $10,000 (£7,700) reward is being offered for information leading to the killer.

Additional reporting by Associated Press