9-year-old hit by stray bullet, police believe


Nine-year-old Lakiya S. Bradford is lying in Johns Hopkins' intensive care unit with tubes running in and out of her. As far as she knows, she was stung by a bee.

Jennifer Queen, Lakiya's mother, knows the truth. Lakiya was hit by a bullet.

And Ms. Queen is angry.

"It was a gunshot. I want to know who did this to my daughter. I want to know why this was done to my daughter," Ms. Queen said yesterday at her home on the 700 block of North Luzerne Avenue. "I want to know who the bastard is. I want to see him."

Lakiya was shot in the chest Tuesday about 8 p.m. while she was walking with her 11-year-old sister, Latrice, toward a church snowball stand on the 2400 block of East Madison Street. Lakiya is listed in stable condition.

Tuesday night's shooting is the second this month of a Baltimore youngster who was hit by stray gunfire on the city's streets. On July 9, Tiffany Smith, 6, was killed when she stepped into the path of a shootout between two men in the Walbrook area of West Baltimore.

The police said yesterday they don't know know who fired the bullet that hit Lakiya or where it came from.

Thinking she was stung by a bee, Lakiya ran back to her Luzerne Avenue home and told her mother that her back hurt and she was having trouble breathing. Ms. Queen, 36, said she lifted up Lakiya's shirt and found a small hole in the upper part of her chest.

"I though she was hit by a BB gun. I wasn't thinking she was shot," Ms. Queen said. "Lakiya kept saying her back hurt, and she was having trouble breathing. She kept saying, 'Mommy, I was stung by a bee.' "

It wasn't until Lakiya was taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital pediatric emergency room that Ms. Queen was told by the doctors that it was neither a bee sting nor a BB gun that had injured her daughter, but a bullet. The police believe the bullet is .32 or .38 caliber.

For now, Lakiya still thinks that she was stung by a bee, though, and Ms. Queen says she doesn't want to tell her daughter the truth, at least not yet.

"I'm not going to tell her now, she'll get hysterical. That's the way she is," Ms. Queen said.

The police have no leads but think Lakiya was hit by an errant bullet.

"As it turns out, there was no one who will admit to seeing or hearing anything," Dennis S. Hill, police spokesman, said. "As far as physical evidence, there was no shell casing."

A potential witness was taken into custody but was released after he gave no information about the shooting, Mr. Hill said.

The only person willing to talk is Lakiya's sister, Latrice, who said she heard a loud bang before Lakiya dropped to the ground complaining of a bee sting.

But Latrice didn't see anyone with a gun or know from what direction the shot came.

Mr. Hill said the police will continue their investigation, but unless someone in the neighborhood comes forward there will be little progress.

Ronald L. Bradford, Lakiya's father, said he was surprised that Lakiya was shot in a neighborhood he considers to be safe. Mr. Bradford, 38, said he can only assume that his daughter was hit by a stray bullet from someone else's gunfight.

"I can't see anyone going looking for her -- looking for a 9-year-old," Mr. Bradford said.

Mr. Bradford stayed with Lakiya until early yesterday morning. He said she was doing well and was responsive.

But he is afraid that the shooting will leave her more emotionally than physically scarred.

And Jennifer Queen said she will no longer allow her six children to play in the neighborhood alone. When she is in the house, Ms. Queen said, her kids will be, too; when she is in the back yard, that's where she said her kids will be.

"I don't care if it gets to be 115 [degrees] in the house, they are going to stay with me," she said. "I'm not going to let this happen again."

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