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Answers elude St. Petersburg police in shooting of Paris Whitehead-Hamilton, 8

ST. PETERSBURG — More than a week after an 8-year-old girl was killed in her home by bullets meant for someone else, police said they are still searching for answers.

They don't know where the high-powered weapons used in the slaying of Paris Whitehead-Hamilton came from, and they don't know if the shooters realized how many people were in the home when they opened fire.

"I don't know what these guys were thinking," said Assistant Chief David DeKay. "All those people in the house, how could they possibly intend to hit one out of the nine?"

The Police Department is working with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to trace the AR-15 semiautomatic rifles seized in the investigation.

Police spokesman Bill Proffitt said there have been no new arrests. Police also have not received any significant new tips, he said.

Four people have been arrested on charges related to the killing.

Paris was asleep in bed when a group of men fired bullets into her home during the early hours of April 5.

She ran from her bedroom and was struck in the back by three of the dozens of bullets aimed at her home, police say, losing her life in an escalating cycle of gang retaliation.

In 911 calls, a woman's wails pierce through the morning chaos. "We were in the bed," an unidentified woman tells the operator. "Why would they shoot?"

Paris lived with her aunt because the girl's mother, Robin Whitehead, died in a fall two years ago.

The shocking death has hung over the city in recent days. Children left stuffed animals outside Paris' home. Neighbors marched to demand justice. Elected officials searched for answers.

Gov. Charlie Crist arrived at John Hopkins Middle School to talk about the economic stimulus package and how it might affect schools Monday.

City Council member Wengay Newton approached the governor and asked him what can be done about street violence.

"We can make sure we have good prevention programs," Crist said. "We can make sure we enforce the laws on the books aggressively."

Newton continued to press: "What about assault weapons?"

Crist's response: "I think that's something we should discuss."

Answers elude St. Petersburg police in shooting of Paris Whitehead-Hamilton, 8 04/13/09 [Last modified: Monday, April 13, 2009 11:32pm]
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