In September, Shanika "Nik Nik" Day, 3, was going to start prekindergarten at Edgewood Elementary School in Walbrook.
Her mother, Mona Lisa McClain, 19, had begun to buy school clothes for her.
Saturday night, tragedy struck. Shanika, who lived with her mother in the 1900 block of Chelsea Terrace, was killed by bullets that may have been meant for a man who also was fatally shot as he tried to use his body to shield her from harm.
No arrests have been made. Police spokesman Dennis Hill said today the motive for the shooting appears to have been drug-related.
Police said Shanika and Steve Allen Cochran, 19, of the 500 block of Laurens St., were killed when at least two gunmen fired nearly a dozen bullets into a crowd of people in the 2100 block of Garrison Blvd. near Clifton Avenue at Walbrook Junction in West Baltimore.
McClain was shot in the knee, and another man, Bryant Jones, 18, of the 2300 block of Allendale Road, was shot in one arm. McClain was in stable condition today at Sinai Hospital.
Jones was treated at Sinai and released.
Both Cochran and Jones have arrest records for narcotics violations, Hill said.
Police said three men in a rust-colored or burgundy Toyota Corolla drove through the 2100 block of Garrison Blvd. Saturday night and returned a short time later, about 11 o'clock. Two men got out of the car and had a conversation with Cochran, police said.
Suddenly, gunfire erupted.
Cochran, who was holding Shanika, fell dead from at least three gunshot wounds in his back, Hill said.
Shanika was struck by two bullets that passed through Cochran's body as he was trying to protect her, police said. She died at 1 a.m. yesterday at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Yesterday, dried blood inside yellow chalk circles on the sidewalk marked the scene. Police said 15 people were there during the shooting.
"All I heard were shots, and people hollering and screaming," said a neighbor, who said she called police.
Outside McClain's home last night, family members and friends gathered on the lawn to eat crabs. They expressed anger and disbelief over the girl's slaying.
"There's got to be something done," said Barbara Johnson, a close friend. "This is just a 3-year-old baby. It's too much."
L Murder victims, she said, are "getting younger and younger."
Shanika was the second child shot to death in the city this summer. On July 9, Tiffany Smith, 6, was shot and killed as she played in front of a friend's home in the 1800 block of Rosedale St. Tiffany was shot in the head by a stray bullet fired during a gunfight between two men. That shooting also occurred in
the Walbrook neighborhood.
Two weeks later, Lakiya Bradford, 9, was shot in the chest as she went to buy a snowball from a
church around the corner from her home on North Luzerne Avenue. Lakiya spent a few days in the hospital.
McClain's family said she was about five blocks from home and talking with friends when the gunfire erupted. She grabbed her daughter from the fallen Cochran.
At first, McClain didn't realize Shanika had been wounded, family members said.
Hill said McClain flagged down a motorist who drove them to a fire station at Liberty Heights Avenue and Garrison Boulevard.
"She's doing pretty good," Mary Siebert, 53, an aunt, said of McClain. "But she's in pain."
McClain is finding it difficult to accept the death of her daughter, family members said.
Johnson, who has lost two sons to gunfire in four years, visited McClain yesterday and tried to comfort her.
"It's hard to say anything," Johnson said. "I told her to just be strong because she has another child to take care of." McClain has a 2-year-old
Shanika's 3-year-old cousin, Lakisha, is also unable to grasp that Shanika is no longer alive.
"She thinks she's coming home tomorrow," Siebert said. "She said, 'Nik Nik coming home tomorrow.' "
Jerry McClain, Shanika's uncle, said, "I haven't accepted her death yet."
Last Saturday, Shanika attended a birthday party for her great-grandmother, he said. "She was out here in the yard having a good time. Now she's gone."