MOUNT VERNON, New York (WABC) --A suburban New York principal says a "shining star" was lost when a 13-year-old girl was killed by a stray bullet while riding home from basketball practice.
Graham Elementary School Principal Natasha Hunter-McGregor said that Mount Vernon eighth-grader Shamoya McKenzie was an "excellent student," athlete and role model.
She was struck in the head by a stray bullet over the holiday break, and grief counselors were on hand Tuesday as students returned to school. The day began with an assembly during which school officials stressed to students that they are safe.
"The perfect child, taken away from us," mom Nadine McKenzie said. "The perfect child taken away."
Her mother said Shamoya dreamed of attending the University of Connecticut and playing for the WNBA. She already was playing junior varsity basketball with Mount Vernon High School's Lady Knights and had just been promoted to the varsity squad, after getting her start playing on boys' teams. It was the reason she fought the family's planned move to Florida.
"She said, 'Mommy, no, we're not moving from Mount Vernon,'" she said. "'I'm going to Mount Vernon High, and then UConn, and then the WNBA. I'm coming right back here. This is where I want to be.'"
The still-reeling mother put on a brave face as she stood with Mount Vernon educational and political leaders.
"I fear that some of our students may indeed become numb to these kinds of acts of violence," Superintendent Kenneth Hamilton said. "And it is our job as a community of educators and a community of leaders and politicians to make sure that that does not happen."
Dwayne Murray was her travel basketball coach.
"We have to stop being surprised," he said. "And as a community, I think we have to, as adults, probably first start by saying that we failed."
An online fundraising page has been set up to help her family.
On Monday, family, friends and teammates remembered McKenzie as they passed a curbside memorial at the shooting scene.
The team also posted a tribute to Shamoya on their Facebook page:
Investigators are hoping security cameras captured images that help them find the people who are responsible for the Saturday afternoon shooting. There were cameras directly across the street from the intersection where a stray bullet hit the teen as she sat in the passenger's seat of her mother's car.
New York State Crime Stoppers, serving as a resource for the Mount Vernon Police, is offering a reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a suspect. The FBI is also involved in the investigation.
Anyone with information regarding this incident should immediately call the New York State Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-866-313-Tips (8477). Callers may remain anonymous.