When a police officer spotted the stolen Jeep Liberty on Thursday afternoon, Steuart Hill Academic Academy was dismissing students just three blocks away.
As the officer made a U-turn and turned on her lights, the Jeep sped off down South Gilmor Street toward the elementary school. It barreled through a red light at Lombard Street, struck a Nissan Sentra, brushed a crossing guard, and hit and killed an 8-year-old girl, police said.
Amirah Kinlaw was in third grade and lived near the school. Police said she died at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
"She was all smiles," said her stepfather, Leon Carter. "She had no worries, no cares."
She was walking to an after-school program when hit. The Jeep continued down Gilmor Street, hitting several cars before coming to a stop. Police said the driver ran away.
"The only thing we know about him at this moment is he was a young black man in blue jeans," Detective Donny Moses said. "The ignition on [the Jeep] was popped. It was confirmed stolen."
The driver was still being sought Thursday evening.
"I was going to chase him down, but he was gone," said Charles Hennson, who was standing with a friend by the street when the Jeep passed. "If it was 30 seconds before that, it would have been us."
The Sentra smashed into Pat Giroux's parked Toyota 4Runner.
"We heard the crash," Giroux said. "We came over here, and there was a young girl laying on the grass."
Soon paramedics arrived. "They kept pressing on her heart for a long, long time," Giroux said.
A man in the Nissan Sentra was hospitalized in critical condition, police said. The crossing guard was taken to the hospital with injuries that were not considered life-threatening. Flying debris hit a 9-year-old boy whose injuries also were not life-threatening.
But it was the little girl, killed outside her school, that hushed neighbors at the scene.
"I just hope for the little girl," said Giroux before falling silent and covering her heart. She did not know the girl had died. "A lot of kids were crying."
Inside the school, police spoke with witnesses in the office. That night, friends gathered to mourn at the family's home.
"To wrap it all up and swallow it, I ain't got there yet," said Carter, the stepfather.
Next week the school year ends for summer. So April Carter told her daughter she could stay home a day this week.
Amirah wouldn't consider it, her mother said. "She wanted to see her friends."
Thursday afternoon, neighbors reported a suspicious Jeep circling the neighborhood about 2:20 p.m., police said. An officer on patrol passed the Jeep in the 300 block of S. Gilmor St., about three blocks from the school.
While the officer had turned to try to stop the Jeep, police said it was not a chase.
"We do not believe that this was a pursuit," Moses said. "We have several independent witnesses that confirmed it."
The officer "never had the chance" to pursue, he said. "Bottom line: We don't chase, school zone or not. We don't chase stolen autos."
Shattered glass, a sheared-off side window, ripped fenders and bumpers lay scattered in the grass outside the school. The crossing guard's hand-held stop sign lay at the curb.
And in the middle of the street, encircled by the police paint that marks evidence, lay a small, black sneaker.
Baltimore Sun reporter Jessica Anderson contributed to this article.