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13-year-old girl killed in Middle River shooting, police say

Friends and family of Iyanna Watkins, 13, held a prayer and candle light vigil behind a 7-11 store on Peterson Road in Middle River where she was shot and killed in July. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun video)

A 13-year-old girl was shot and killed in Middle River late Monday night, Baltimore County police said.

The girl, identified by police as Iyanna Watkins, was with a group of people sitting behind a 7-Eleven near Peterson Road. At least one person fired at the group from an alley before running away from the scene, police said.

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Two men in the group were also shot, said a police spokeswoman, Officer Jennifer Peach. They were both taken to area hospitals.

At a vigil for Iyanna on Tuesday evening, her mother, through tears, listed all the things her daughter would never get to do: Start high school, go to a job interview, have a family of her own.

"I cannot hug my baby tonight," said Chanel Gaskins. "I love my baby so much, and some coward came and took her away from me. It's a pain I never want anyone to feel."

Iyanna Watkins
Iyanna Watkins

At the vigil in the 7-Eleven parking lot, dozens of children — holding colorful balloons and teddy bears — lit candles and let their sobs fill the otherwise quiet Middle River community.

The crowd formed a circle to hold a moment of silence and pray for Iyanna's family.

Friends and members of Iyanna's family doubled over in tears, and recounted a smart young girl whose smile could light up a room.

"She was really special," said Benita Newman, 47, a family friend. "She was so young. Still a baby. These young children need to realize they're hurting families. They're taking people away from their families and it's not right."

Police were called by neighbors just before midnight Monday to the 700 block of Peterson Road, where a 911 caller reported hearing possible gunshots, said Natalie Litofsky, a department spokeswoman. Police found Iyanna with gunshot wounds to her upper and lower body. She was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

Police are investigating whether the shooting is related to an argument between the group sitting behind the convenience store and another group earlier that evening. Detectives spent Tuesday canvassing the area and are asking businesses for surveillance footage, police said.

Police said they think this was a targeted crime, but are investigating whether one person or the entire group was the intended target.

Natalya English, who lives in the area, called Watkins "a real sweetheart."

"This really hits so close to home," said English, 17. "A life taken too soon. She didn't deserve it."

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