A week before a stray bullet hit 9-year-old Zalayia Jenkins in the head, the girl had just one question for a police officer strolling through her Milwaukee neighborhood: Can you keep me safe?
Zalayia was pronounced dead Monday night, less than two weeks after armed groups in the street outside her house exchanged gunfire while she sat inside watching TV. Amid the shooting, several bullets entered Zalayia's house and critically injured her, leaving her on life support. Milwaukee police later recovered more than 40 shell casings from the scene.
Painfully, Zalayia was well aware of the dangers lurking in her neighborhood, having asked Shunta Boston Smith, a commander with the Milwaukee Police Department, to protect her just days earlier while the two jumped rope.
"[Smith] was on a neighborhood walk last week, [and] talked to the family about their concerns," Milwaukee police Chief Ed Flynn told WISN the night of the shooting. "[She] jumped rope with the little girl, whose only question was whether or not we could keep her safe. Sadly that question was answered tonight.”
Zalayia would have turned 10 on Tuesday.
Milwaukee police spokesman Sgt. Tim Gauerke told The Huffington Post the department is seeking the driver of this green Jeep Cherokee, which was in the area at the time of the shooting:
Zalayia’s homicide is Milwaukee's 37th of 2016. Last year at this time, the city had seen 57 homicides, Gauerke said.