It was supposed to be an evening of fun. Eight-year-old Alaysha Carradine was sleeping over at a friend's house in Oakland, excited to go to a modeling show on Thursday with her buddy.
Instead, the unimaginable happened, even in a city that has sometimes become desensitized to violence. The would-be third grader was gunned down just after 11 p.m. Wednesday when she opened the door and was met with a barrage of bullets - at least 12 holes were found riddled in the front door.( Thu Jul 18 18:40:22 PDT 2013 $__output )
Alaysha, who her family called "Ladybug," was killed, earning her the dubious distinction of becoming Oakland's 54th homicide victim this year. She had turned 8 less than a month ago on June 28.
"This is about as low as you can possibly get," Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent said. "What kind of human being shoots a little girl?"( Thu Jul 18 09:39:59 PDT 2013 $__output )
Alaysha's 7-year-old friend, her 4-year-old brother and their 63-year-old grandmother were also struck by bullets, but all three are expected to recover from the shooting at an apartment complex in the 3400-block of Wilson Avenue near MacArthur Boulevard, not considered to be among Oakland's roughest parts of town. In fact, nearby is a quaint library and a strip of well-trafficked shops and restaurants.
The mayor and police chief visited Children's Hospital late Thursday morning, bringing teddy bears to the surviving brother and sister.
"Tragedy has struck again," Jesse Fowler, 24, told NBC Bay Area on Thursday morning. Alaysha, whom he described as a funny, talkative, helpful student at Fruitvale Elementary School, is the daughter of his girlfriend, Chiquita Carradine, who was in Washington, D.C., when her daughter was killed. He broke the news to her by phone, and she is heading back home.
"She's not doing too good," Fowler said of Alaysha's mother. "She doesn't want to accept it."
Detectives were not sure on Thursday whether the bullets were intended for this apartment in a killing that one officer called "heinous."
Police said they have several leads, but need a lot more to go on and witnesses will be critical in the case.
A $25,000 reward was immediately put up by police and CrimeStoppers for information leading to an arrest.
Fowler had dropped off Alaysha on Wednesday afternoon to sleep over at the home of her 7-year-old friend, where Khamel Hardin, 22, also lives. His niece, nephew and mother were those injured. He said he had no idea why someone would pop off a fusillade of shots at the apartment building where he lives.
Hardin said Alaysha and the others had opened the door after hearing knocks and thinking it was the 7-year-old's mother. He was the only person who wasn't injured.
He said he and his niece and Alaysha loved modeling: Alaysha had modeled in a Juneteenth celebration in San Francisco this summer, walking down the runway in a black leotard and multicolored flouncy skirt.
"It's just not safe," Sharon Smith, Fowler's mother who often cared for Alaysha, told NBC Bay Area through tears. "I have no idea why this would have happened. I know the kids didn't do anything to deserve this. It's just heartbreaking."
Smith described Alaysha with superlatives such as "sweet," "beautiful" and a girl with "such a big heart." She said Alaysha was the type of girl to always help others and lay her clothes out first thing in the morning. "She was such a big girl," Smith said. "She was absolutely an angel."
Anyone with information should call Oakland police at 510-238-3821 or the anonymous tip line at 510-773-2508.
NBC Bay Area's Stephanie Chuang and Kim Tere contributed to this report.