Shanizya Taft

A recent cell phone picture of 12-year-old Shanizya Taft from one of her relatives. Relatives gathered Wednesday at the corner of Preston and Aisquith streets to pray with Rev. Douglas Logan, of Zion Hill Baptist Church. Taft was killed Tuesday night when the minivan she was riding in was struck by a man driving a stolen car and suspected of killing a 16-year-old boy during a robbery on Monday. (Kenneth K. LAM, Baltimore Sun / May 28, 2014)

Paramedics carried 12-year-old Shanizya Taft away from a crumpled silver minivan in East Baltimore Tuesday night. She was a fashionable and respectful sixth-grader who her teachers said always made the principal's list for good students. She would soon be pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Across town in Southwest Baltimore, the family of 16-year-old Oscar Torres planned his funeral around a cross of rose petals they had laid near prayer candles on the living room floor. He was shot to death early Monday four blocks from his home.

Police say one man was responsible for the deaths of both children. He became the department's No. 1 target on Wednesday. Officers spread across the city to find him.

His identity remains unknown, but police believe the same man robbed and killed Torres early Monday, stole the car he was riding in and then crashed it into the minivan that carried Shanizya on Tuesday night.

"We desperately want to find this guy," Baltimore police spokesman Lt. Eric Kowalczyk said Wednesday. "We know that he's injured. If anybody knows who he is, if anyone has any information, we want to get this guy before he takes another life of a child."

As neighbors of Torres passed out red carnations during a vigil at the site where he had been killed, officers could be seen just up the block on South Mount Street stopping suspicious cars and searching occupants.

"We know someone is out on the street and suspected in two juvenile homicides," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said. "It is very important to me that this person is apprehended as quickly as possible before any other young person is hurt. It was a horrific accident and a tragedy for that family."

The events began in the early morning hours Monday. Police say Torres was riding in a white Ford Fusion about four blocks from his home when an armed man approached, robbed and shot him and an older friend. Doctors at a local hospital pronounced Torres dead. Police did not release the name or condition of the other victim.

Police say the gunman took the car and fled. Investigators released the car's description to media outlets. They say it had Illinois plates.

Nearly 24 hours after the shooting, Kowalczyk said, officers in the department's Special Enforcement Section police officers in plain clothes saw the car in East Baltimore and followed it.

Kowalczyk said the officers did not pursue the car. Witnesses told The Baltimore Sun they heard the speeding Ford, followed by police sirens, and then the smash of a collision. The car slammed into the minivan at the intersection of East Preston and Aisquith streets.

One witness compared the sound to a "bomb or a grenade."

Onlookers rushed into the street to help the woman, Shanizya and her 4-year-old sister out of the crushed minivan. Witnesses said the man in the Ford limped away, heading west from the 1100 block of E. Preston St.

Two occupants got out of the minivan, witnesses said, while one passenger had to be cut out of the vehicle.

Family and friends attended a vigil at the crash site Wednesday evening. Shanizya's great-grandmother, Catherine Wheele, said Shanizya's mother continues to be treated. The 4-year-old has been released, Wheele said.

Shanizya, called "Mink" by the family, was an A student at Coldstream Park Elementary/Middle School, Wheele said.

Louise James, another relative, said the girl "hadn't even started living yet."

"I pray to God he gets caught," James said. "He's now killed two people."

Christienne Warren, the principal at Coldstream Park, called Shanizya a "great student, very bright, very respectful mannerable, liked by all, always on the principal's list."

The girl was known for her fashion sense. She often donned a blue vest to give her school uniform some flair. She was also part of the school's Kidcasters morning announcement team. She was in the robotics club, Warren said, and excelled in engineering, math and science.