Family and friends grieved the death of a 10-year-old girl struck down by a stray bullet outside her Albany home, where her mother wept Friday morning in front of a memorial display of flowers, balloons, candles and stuffed animals.
Kathina Thomas was killed Thursday evening in the city’s West Hill neighborhood, a community residents say is plagued by gunplay and other violence.
“My daughter’s dead! I can’t believe she’s dead like that!” sobbed Shondell McCallister outside her apartment Friday morning. “Why did they shoot my daughter? Why not me?”
McCallister’s daughter was outside their home playing when witnesses heard a pop and she fell to the ground shortly before 8:30 p.m., according to city police spokesman James Miller. She was taken to a hospital where she was pronounced dead. Miller, who said the neighborhood has been plagued by crime, said it was likely a stray bullet that hit her in the upper back. A streak of blood still stained the pavement Friday morning.
“Why would they do something like this to my daughter? Where is justice?” asked McCallister, who emigrated to the U.S. from Guyana a little over a year ago.
Kathina, a fourth-grader at Sheridan Preparatory Academy, was active in the school’s chorus, according to school officials.
“The thing that comes to mind for me is she just always had a bright smile on,” said Principal Cecily Wilson in a release. “She developed very good friendships here. She was a ’girl’s girl.’ Giggly when they were playing outside, and always ready with that smile.”
Neighbors in Kathina’s low-income neighborhood, which is blighted by vacant buildings and boarded-up windows, said violence is an everyday occurrence. The white, two-story row house with blue trim where Kathina lived is one block off a main commercial street, just over a mile from the state Capitol.
“This area here is a war zone,” said John Hooks, a neighbor who came to pay his respects. “I’m a Vietnam vet and I can tell you, this is a combat zone all the time.”
Other neighbors stressed a need for community programs to keep kids off the street.
No arrests had been made as of Friday afternoon and police haven’t said if they know why the single shot was fired or where it came from.
Thursday night marked the start of Operation Impact in Albany, a street crime crackdown that puts state troopers into some of New York’s high-crime neighborhoods to help local police. The program targets gang members, drug dealers and people wanted on old warrants.
Miller said there are currently eight troopers in the city’s rotation, with about four or five paroling the city every night.
Kathina’s death was the sixth homicide this year in Albany. Three men were shot to death in an Albany home in late January, another man was fatally stabbed by his neighbor that month. A baby was shaken to death this month.
“It happens all the time,” said Rev. Berresford Bailey of the Star of Bethlehem Church, who came to offer his prayers. “We need to do something about this. We can’t let this happen anymore. We just can’t.”
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