OAKLAND -- An 8-year-old girl was killed and two other children wounded late Wednesday when someone outside the apartment where they were having a sleepover sprayed it with gunfire, according to police and local media accounts.
Oakland police spokeswoman Johnna Watson said officers responding to the 3400 block of Wilson Street in the city’s lower Dimond District shortly after 11 p.m. found the youngsters -- along with a 64-year-old woman -- suffering from gunshot wounds.
The suspect or suspects are unknown, she said.
The Oakland Tribune and other Bay Area media identified the slain child as Alaysha Carradine, who was sleeping over at the home of her 7-year-old friend. That child, her 4-year-old brother and their grandmother are expected to survive.
The 22-year-old uncle of the two younger children told the Tribune that he heard gunfire burst through the front door. "I was dodging shots," he said. "I tried to get [the children] out of the way."
In an interview with NBC Bay Area, Sharon Smith -- whose son is the boyfriend of Alaysha’s mother -- wept as she spoke about the little girl who was known by loved ones as “ladybug.”
“She was such a sweet girl, such a loving girl,” said Smith, who lives next door to the home where the shooting occurred. “She would get up in the morning before everyone and get dressed, lay her clothes out. Such a big girl, such a big heart.”
Smith's son, Jesse Fowler, told the news station his mother has lived in the neighborhood, which is not one of Oakland's violence hot spots, for 20 years. “I've always been comfortable with this street ... but tragedy has struck,” he said.
“It’s a terrible loss for all of us,” he added. “I’m still shocked that somebody would shoot up a house full of kids.”
Fowler took Alaysha to the sleepover because the two girls were slated to visit a modeling talent scout Thursday, he and his mother said.
Oakland has struggled with soaring crime and a severely understaffed police force. Gun slayings are not unusual in this city of about 400,000: This was the 54th homicide this year. But the random killing of children has in the past served as a call to action for a community in many ways numb to the death toll.
In mid-2011, 3-year-old Carlos Nava was shot and killed while his mother pushed him in a stroller down a busy East Oakland Street. That fall, 1-year-old Hiram Lawrence was shot in the head as his father held him during the taping of a music video in a West Oakland parking lot. Their names have been invoked repeatedly by ministers, community leaders and police in an effort to slow the violence.
News of Alaysha’s death stunned many Oakland residents Thursday. “The life of 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine was more valuable than all of the windows in the world,” tweeted Joshua Daniels, referencing the destructive protests of the George Zimmerman verdict that left glass shattered in downtown Oakland earlier this week.
Police are seeking the public's help in the case. "We really need the community to help in tracking down the suspect in this heinous and shocking crime," Officer Rob Rosin told the Tribune.