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Lucy Bell was upstairs giving her children a bath in her Moody Manor apartment when she heard her sister screaming. Ms. Bell ran downstairs, stepped outside, and saw her neighbor Naomi Pride -- known throughout the neighborhood as "Granny" -- holding her year-old granddaughter Keondra Hooks and crying that she had died of a gunshot wound in the head.
Ms. Bell immediately took the child from Ms. Pride's arms, felt for a pulse, and got into a car with Ms. Pride and fellow neighbor Ebony Dunston to rush the infant to the hospital Thursday night.
"Granny already had in her head that [the baby] was dead," Ms. Bell said. "My first instinct was just, 'Let's go.' I knew that waiting for the ambulance would take too long."
Keondra died at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center at 10:10 a.m. Friday, less than 12 hours after being shot as she lay sleeping on the living room floor of the apartment at Moody Manor, Toledo Police Chief Derrick Diggs said. She is believed to be the youngest firearm-homicide victim in recent Toledo history.
- RELATED CONTENT: Toledo Blade homicide database
Her older sister, 2-year-old Leondra Hooks, was seriously wounded by a bullet in the "upper body."
Leondra was listed in serious condition Friday night at the hospital, and family members said her injuries could keep her from walking again.
The chief said two unknown suspects approached the residence at 2225 Kent St. near Page Street in the city's near north end and fired at least 12 rounds through a rear glass sliding patio door.
Three adults, including Ms. Pride, and another infant were inside at the time of the shooting, but they were not injured.
Police promised swift action.
"Make no mistake, the police department will get the perpetrators of this shooting," Chief Diggs said during a morning news conference.
"[Keondra] fought for her life all those hours," her aunt Bernice Neal said amid tears outside the Moody Manor complex Friday. "At 10 this morning, my world left me. I just want some answers."
She was comforted by her sister Tamatha Hamilton, who recounted the experience of finding out that her two young nieces had been shot.
"I was coming from work when I got a phone call to get to the hospital," she said. "I got there and my grandmother was covered in Keondra's blood and I asked her what happened and I screamed and I begged and I begged."
Police said the girls were being watched by family members. They did not say if they lived at the apartment on Kent.
"I do not believe this incident was random," the chief said, but declined to elaborate.
Authorities were reviewing a surveillance video from the building, which the chief declined to release.
He also declined to reveal a possible motive for the shooting, the caliber of the bullets recovered from the scene, or if anything was found inside the apartment to indicate why that residence was targeted.
Keondra's death is the 21st homicide in Toledo in 2012 and the 29th in the metro area.
Including the two girls, 128 people have been shot in the city since Jan. 1, police said.
The chief asked for the public's help in solving the crime, and he acknowledged the Moody Manor area was plagued with crime.
Neighbors agreed the area is troubled.
"It's terrible -- there's violence, gangs, drugs, everything," said Precious Smith, who has lived at Moody Manor for 2 1/2 weeks with her six children. "I have to constantly stay out on the back patio and make sure I can count all of [my kids] and see all of them."
The shooting prompted the creation of an apparent task force to catch the suspects.
"In response to this shooting, I have assigned a large number of investigators to investigate this shooting and to bring the perpetrators to justice," Chief Diggs said.
"Make no mistake, the police department will get the perpetrators of this shooing. We will get the individuals responsible for this incident."
Toledo Mayor Mike Bell was out of town Friday on a undisclosed trip and could not be reached for comment.
Deputy Mayor Tom Crothers stood alongside Chief Diggs at the news conference and pledged to give the police department whatever resources needed to solve the crime.
"The message I want to deliver from the mayor, first of all we want to say to the family and families related to these young people that our hearts go out to you," Mr. Crothers said. "Make no mistake, as Chief Diggs just said, we will bring these perpetrators to justice. This is in fact unacceptable. This type of behavior will end. It must end and it will end."
Following Mr. Crothers' comments, Chief Diggs said: "I will always ask for manpower."
The Toledo police force numbers 574 -- which breaks down to 440 patrolmen and 134 command officers. Twelve officers are in the department's gang unit and there are between six to 12 officers assigned each night to the crime-suppression unit.
"The police department is currently in the process of hiring a class that is supposed to start here very soon -- a 40-officer police class," he said.
"We are also getting ready to gear up for another large police class in 2013. The mayor has committed to increasing the staffing levels of the police department to at least 600, maybe 625, by the end of 2013 so the commitment for more police officers is there."
Sgt. Joe Heffernan, spokesman for the Toledo police, said the gang task force is involved with the investigation because that housing complex is a known gang area.
"There is a group called the Manor Boys that live in and around that housing complex," Sergeant Heffernan said. "It is on par with the rest of the street gangs in Toledo. I don't think we have any really sophisticated gangs here, but there are groups that identify themselves as gang members and do engage in criminal behavior and that is why we have a gang unit."
Toledo Councilman D. Michael Collins, chairman of council's public safety committee, said Toledo has one of the smallest police forces compared to the number of residents and he thinks the department's patrolmen-to-command officer ratio is unbalanced.
"When I retired in 1999, we had over 725 officers," Mr. Collins said.
"The last two administrations have faced the challenges of general fund deprecation, and I think the last two administrations basically tried to balance the books by allowing the number of police officers to fall to the levels today and we are the most underpoliced city per capita."
The national average is about 2.7 officers for 1,000 people while Toledo has about 1.65 officers per 1,000.
Patti Hassler, spokesman for the Children's Defense Fund in Washington, was outraged when told about the shooting Thursday.
"This gun violence has got to end. We just have to make our community safe for children. When you look at what has happened the last couple of weeks where a -year-old was at a movie theater and killed, we have to have some sensible gun laws and make our community safe," Ms. Hassler said, referring to the youngest victim of the July 20 shooting rampage in Aurora, Colo., in which 12 people were killed.
A recent study by the organization found the 88 preschoolers killed by guns in 2008 and the 85 killed in 2009 were nearly double the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in 2008 and 2009.
Community members said that the fear pervading the community needs to, and can, change.
Pastor Randall Parker III of Manifested Word Church, who is also a member of New Order, a nonprofit human rights organization, said that, although police are doing what they can, he wants to see the community take a stand.
"Change is only based on connection," he said. "Once we connect ourselves as a community, change can take place. We have to be part of the solution, not part of the problem."
His opinion was seconded by Deacon Zettie Williams of the Family Baptist Church.
"As long as we sit back and don't say anything as a community, it's still going to happen," Mr. Williams said. "It seems like the only time we come together is when we lose somebody. We shouldn't wait for it to get that bad."
Deacon Williams urged those in Moody Manor to speak up and "stop being afraid," saying that it's time to "stop turning heads when something is wrong."
Chief Diggs likewise asked anyone with information about the shooting to call the Crime Stoppers program at 419-255-1111.
Staff writer Mike Sigov contributed to this report.
Contact Madeline Buxton at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6050.