BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A murder suspect running from police smashes into a car, killing a 12-year-old girl. The child’s family is speaking out as police try and hunt down that driver.
Meghan McCorkell stays on the investigation.
Police believe that driver ran into the nearby woods. Now officers across the city are trying to find him.
Investigators say the suspect ran from the scene of a devastating crash at Preston Street and Harford Avenue.
“It sounded terrible. It was a loud boom,” said one witness.
The man was driving a vehicle linked to the murder of a 15-year-old boy.
When police tried to stop the car, he sped off, smashing full speed right into a Dodge Caravan and killing 12-year-old Shanizya Taft and injuring her mother and four-year-old sister.
“Once they got her out, they had to pump her chest,” Johnson said. “I’ve been thinking about it all night long. Still thinking about it. I’ve got grandkids myself and it’s just sad.”
Plain clothes officers pursued the man after spotting him nearby, but police contend there was no chase. Police have a strict no chase policy.
“Our officers were initially behind this vehicle. They did initially try to stop it,” said Lt. Eric Kowalczyk, Baltimore City Police. “After a short period of time, they lost sight of the vehicle. And then it was one of our patrol officers who came across the accident a short time after that.”
Authorities already wanted the man for shooting and killing a 15-year-old on Memorial Day on S. Mount Street.
“He’s already taken the life of two children in this city. We need to get him off the street before he takes anybody else’s life,” said Kowalczyk.
Family and church members gathered Wednesday night for a vigil in the spot where Shanizya died.
“She was an A student. She was real smart. She was a good person,” said great-grandmother Catherine Wheele.
The loss has devastated the entire community.
“You see dreams now that won’t ever be fulfilled. You won’t see that young lady walk across the stage and graduate. You won’t see her get married,” said Dr. Douglas Logan with Zion Hill Baptist Church.
Now family members want her killer behind bars.
“I really do pray to God that he gets caught, because he’s killed two people,” said Louise James.
So he can’t hurt anyone else.
“This is one of those cases that’s going to go down because somebody in the community is going to have seen something or is going to have some little piece of knowledge that’s going to help us,” Kowalczyk said.
Police believe the suspect may have been significantly injured in the crash and may try to seek medical attention.
Taft’s four-year-old sister was released from the hospital. Family members say her mother remains in intensive care.
Classmates Rochelle Ritchie spoke with say she was the brightest student in her class. The principal says she was part of the engineering club and was consistently on the Honor Roll.
Letters of heartbreak and messages of love now decorate the desk of 12-year-old Shanizya Taft, who was tragically killed Tuesday night as police pursued a murder suspect.
“She was nice. She was always happy. Every time she came into the classroom she would give us hugs,” said Jade Rowe.
The sixth grader was a student at Coldstream Elementary Middle School and was at the top of her class with dreams of becoming an engineer.
“We were best friends since last year,” one student said.
Classmates say her absence is being felt throughout the school. Handwritten letters expressing their pain are scattered all over her desk, saying: “You didn’t deserve to go this early” and “You were like our sister.”
“It won’t feel the same without her in our classroom. So that was a really hard time for us,” said Adrian Phillips.
Principal Christenne Warren says the school lost one of its shining stars and wants to see changes made in how suspects are pursued by police.
“All too often I see that we have tragic ends. And those tragic ends usually involve people who are not even involved in the primary situation,” Warren said.
Shanizya was known for excelling in the classroom. Friends tell WJZ her actions inspired all of her classmates.
“She encouraged one of the baddest students in our class to do his work and now he’s doing his work and he’s having good grades,” one student said.
Grief counselors are available to teachers, students and staff to help cope with Shanizya’s death.
The students tell WJZ that Shanizya was also one of the morning announcers at the school. They say they want the police to catch who did this, but for it to be done safely.
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