Baltimore Sun

‘I lost my daughter; I’ll never be the same’

9-year-old playing with gun accidental­ly killed girl, 15, in West Baltimore, police say

- By Lilly Price

A 15-year-old girl was playing on her front porch Saturday night in West Baltimore’s Edmondson Village when she was shot in the head, Baltimore Police said. She was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Police on Sunday identified the suspected shooter as a 9-year-old boy who accidental­ly shot her while playing with a loaded gun. The boy dropped the gun and fled the scene after the shooting. The gun is registered to a woman who is a relative of the boy and works as an armed security guard, police said.

The boy will not be criminally charged because of his age, police said.

Neighbors who live in the 600 block of Linnard Street described hearing familiar sounds of children playing around 8 p.m. when a single, sharp pop rang out. Friendly chatter turned into horrified screams. A man wailed, “They shot my daughter,” a neighbor said Sunday morning.

Officers arrived shortly after and found the girl unresponsi­ve. On Sunday, her mother identified her as 15-year-old Nykayla Strawder. Police had previously said the girl was 14.

Nykerah Strawder said her daughter was special and that she fought to stay alive. The teenager loved to dance and make videos on TikTok. She loved her siblings. She was shot on the front porch of her family’s home.

Strawder pleaded for young people to stop using firearms.

“I want children to be more safe. To put the guns away, get rid of these guns,” Strawder said between tears. “I lost my daughter; I’ll never be the same.”

The shooting drew a large police presence and attracted a crowd Saturday night. By Sunday morning, crickets and gospel music drifting from the nearby Manifest Wonders Christian Church were the only sounds that filled Linnard Street. A basketball rested on the front porch. There was no sign there was a fatal shooting hours before.

Neighbors and friends stopped by the house where Nykayla Strawder lived to offer support to her family. A man who stood in the doorway closed his eyes, raised his head toward the sky and cried.

The single shot and the screams that followed could be heard up the block, several neighbors said. Avis Welborn saw multiple children playing on the porch before the shooting and recognized that the group had hung out together before.

“They seemed to be friends,” Welborn said.

Theresa Hargrave, who lives nearby, described the area as quiet. Hargrave bemoaned how easy it is for children and teenagers to get their hands on guns and blamed careless adults for not locking up their firearms.

“An adult brought that in the house; an adult needs to be responsibl­e for not keeping the gun secure,” Hargrave said. “This is not the first time an adult is responsibl­e for a child’s death. There is no excuse for this.”

A child was criminally charged Friday in the Wednesday shooting death of an 8-year-old girl in Idlewylde, south of Towson. Baltimore County Police have provided few details about the shooting, the juvenile whom they arrested or the third grade student who died.

A few weeks ago, Hargrave ran into Nykayla after the teen had tried to dye her hair red. Nykayla had forgotten to wear gloves, so the dye turned her forehead and hands a shade of red.

“It was so cute,” Hargrave said with a laugh.

Hargrave was driving home from the market Saturday afternoon when she spotted Nykayla a few hours before she died. She was wearing a lime green shirt and running around the yard, Hargrave said.

“The last time I saw her, she was smiling.”

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