MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Aniya Allen, a 6-year-old girl who was shot in the head Monday evening, died of her injuries on Wednesday.
The Minneapolis Police Department says the shooting happened shortly after 11 p.m. on 3500 block of Penn Avenue North, in the city's Folwell neighborhood. Relatives informed WCCO Wednesday morning that Allen died.
Local peace activist KG Wilson says that the child injured in the overnight shooting is his granddaughter. She was riding in her family's car as she and her mom drove back from McDonald's when bullets started flying outside of their north Minneapolis home. One of those bullets hit Allen in the head.
"I'm hurt … I've never been hurt like this. My heart is broken behind this, into thousands of pieces," KG Wilson said.
Her mother carried her daughter into the trauma center following the shooting. On Tuesday, Allen was breathing through a ventilator and had signs of brain swelling. Her mother described her daughter as full of life, adding she liked unicorns and loved to make people smile.
Curtina Wilson, Allen's aunt, remembers her for her contagious joy.
"She was the sweetest. She was loveable and kind. She forgave everyone," Wilson said.
Outside of the Hennepin Healthcare hospital, Allen's family gathered as they learned that she had taken her final breaths.
"That's one of my little angels. They took one of my little angels that I can never get back. That I'll never be able to see again," said her grandmother Latonya Allen. "I'm really angry, I'm angry and I'm hurt."
Allen's mother never thought she'd find herself having to deal with this much grief, but says she also feared she would, given how many children have been hurt by gun violence in Minneapolis this year.
"They're shooting and they're hitting the wrong people. They shouldn't even be shooting out here anyway," Latonya Allen said. "Maybe she's in a better place than this wicked world."
KG Wilson has been advocating for the end of gun violence for years in Minneapolis. His family has found the strength to speak out in hopes that the person responsible for killing his granddaughter finds the compassion to turn themselves in.
"You murdered our loved one. A 6-year-old baby. A precious girl," KG Wilson said. "I'm telling you now, I'm begging you. Turn yourself in. Today."
Aniya's aunt has set up a GoFundMe to help the family.
Another adult victim was brought to North Memorial Health hospital, police say. He was also listed in critical condition.
Allen is the third child to be shot in Minneapolis in the last three weeks, and all were shot in the head. Ten-year-old Ladavionne Garrett Jr. was shot in the back seat of his parent's car on April 30. Nine-year-old Trinity Smith was jumping on a trampoline at a birthday party on Saturday when she was hit by gunfire. Both are at North Memorial, where their beds are side-by-side.
WCCO spoke Tuesday with Raishawn Smith, Trinity's father.
"They were shooting through a group of five kids that was out there, and they hit my baby," Smith said. "I've been here every day. I go up periodically, I pray over her, I talk to her, bring her things, let her know that I'm there."
Community activist Cheryl Anderson is signing up volunteers to stand watch on certain blocks for the next three weeks.
"We're going to stand from sun up to sun down and we're going to shut them down," Anderson said. "We don't want to see another baby shot, we don't want to see anybody shot."
So far this year, at least 185 people have been shot in Minneapolis. That's up nearly 150% from this time last year. There's also been a sharp spike in murders – 27 -- according to MPD. That's more than double last year's count at this time.
At the same time, arrests for violent crimes in Minneapolis are way down, about 40% compared to last May. But why? WCCO asked Minneapolis Police Public Information Officer John Elder.
"We are seeing an increase in crimes, we also have a substantial reduction in staff," Elder said. "Cases are being worked, but they're taking longer and they have less people to do it."
The police union agrees, telling WCCO staffing crunches are taking a toll on arrest rates. MPD is down at least 200 officers since the death of George Floyd about a year ago.
But for any parent living through this wave of violence, they just want it to stop.
"This is about all children, this is not just about the children that's [in the hospital]. It's about protecting our children in the future."
MPD haven't arrested anyone for any of the shootings. WCCO asked what they're doing to protect people. Elder says the department has reassigned some staff to patrol hotspot areas, so people in those areas may notice more officers. There will also be measures the community will not see.
The latest shooting came just hours after Mayor Jacob Frey laid out a new safety plan for the city this summer.
The mayor's announcement detailed a summer safety response, more funding for intervention programs, and a promise to hold Minneapolis police more accountable via new standards and training. Frey said he is also working with the police department to get more cameras on the street, more officers on patrol and more funding for victims of trauma.
Anyone with information on these shootings is asked to call 1-800-222-8477. Anonymous tips can also be submitted at www.CrimeStoppersMN.org.
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