NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) - A two-year-old girl was shot in the cheek with a large caliber gun in a drive-by shooting Tuesday afternoon.
Relatives of the victim tell News 4 the toddler's mother, Sharonda Platt, had exited the vehicle after a male driver pulled into Hometown Grocery around 1:30 p.m. Platt went inside the store for a few items, leaving the girl in the backseat and the male driver in the car. Witnesses say they heard three shots fired, and Platt came back outside to find her little girl had been shot in the face.
Relative Ebony Starks said the toddler, JayRhianna, is a sweet little girl.
"When I heard about it, tears came to my eyes. Somebody called me at work. I left work. I hope everything goes okay. She's a nice little girl. She's your average 2-year-old," Starks said.
Authorities say JayRhianna was conscious and crying after the shooting. Platt immediately drove the child to Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, where JayRhianna was then transferred to Women and Children's Hospital.
News 4 spoke with the family's pastor, Reverend Duane Thomas, who says JayRhianna was hit twice and the bullets broke bones in her face. She will have to have surgery, but she should be okay. She is currently listed in stable condition.
"The bullets hit the baby in the face. One side of the face, and the other lodged in the other side of the face. The baby was more than lucky, she was blessed. She's blessed that God has spared her life," Reverend Thomas said.
Starks said, "It made me feel like, are any of our kids safe out here? You just want to keep your kids close to you because this could happen to anybody. Bullets don't have nobody's name on it."
The car in the drive-by shooting was traveling south on 17th and Pierce. Sources say the shots were fired from the passenger side of the vehicle and the car never stopped.
Reverend Thomas said, "The family wants everyone to know the mother was with a friend. And what happened was someone knew the friend and shot up the vehicle and the baby just happened to be in the vehicle. Wrong place at the wrong time. He rolled down the window and told the shooter 'Hey, no, stop, there's a baby inside.' And they just kept shooting at the vehicle and did not care."
Surveillance cameras outside the store captured the shooting, according to the store manager, and police now have the footage.
Police say they do have a person of interest in the case and are currently searching for that suspect. The suspects were driving a silver-colored, late model mid-sized sedan with a rear spoiler.
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