The family of 14-year-old Unique Russell, killed during a Fourth of July block party, issue an emotional plea for information in the shooting. The victim's stepmother says Russell was a casualty in a war "that doesn't exist," echoing the family's conviction that someone in the neighborhood knows who committed the crime. Patrick Healy reports from Westmont for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on July 6, 2012.
The family of a 14-year-old girl killed at an annual holiday block party on July 4 issued an emotional plea Friday for any information in the shooting.
"I miss my baby; I miss her so much," Donna Wade, the victim’s mother, said through tears. "I know somebody knows something; somebody knows something. This is what we call the hood. Somebody knows something."
Joined by Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and homicide bureau Lt. Mike Rosson, Wade urged tipsters, who could remain anonymous, to come forward.
"I deserve it, Unique deserves it, her family deserves it," Wade said at a news conference. "It’s gonna help me; it’s gonna help her family."
Witnesses said at first they thought the sounds of gunshots were fireworks.
Authorities said they were looking for two men who left the scene on foot. Rosson said there was little detail available about the shooters. One was wearing a hoodie, he said at the press conference.
"Really, I hope they bragging and somebody hear or I hope they conscious is eating they alive," Wade said after the news conference.
Russell’s stepmother, Wendell Walker, followed Wade at the podium, echoing the family’s conviction that someone in the community has the information that could lead to an arrest in the case.
"For so long, we’ve upheld them in their wrong because they’re our brothers, our cousins, our family and we uphold them when they’re wrong and that’s why this is allowed to continue," Wendell said.
Russell’s family continuously referred to a code of silence among area criminals that they said puts everyone in danger.
"How many of our kids have to die to uphold a war? A war that doesn’t exist; it’s in our minds, it’s in everybody’s minds. There’s no war. There’s causalities on both sides and nobody’s gonna win," she said.
"I’m only my brother’s keeper for so long; I’m not my brother’s keeper when he’s wrong like this."
Family members said Russell was set to be a sophomore at Washington Preparatory High School. Her mother said she had wanted to be a pediatrician.
Russell's 12-year-old cousin, Rekell Reeves, was shot in the leg, and a 25-year-old male relative was also wounded in the shooting.
The large, extended family had gathered Wednesday night for an annual Fourth of July celebration. They were lighting off fireworks in the street when the shots were fired from down the block, which was crowded with dozens of partygoers.
"They were out shooting fireworks, and it was beautiful. Then all of a sudden, you hear 'bang-bang-bang,' about six shots," witness Mary Dill said Thursday.
Relatives said members of Russell's family had lived on 97th Street for some four decades. A relative of Russell's said 97th Street was a "family street" with no gang activity.
However, recent violence, including Rusell's shooting and other incidnents, have neighbors on alert.
Authorities urged the public to come forward with any information about the incident by calling the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500, Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or text "TIPLA" plus your message to CRIMES (274637).