Milwaukee authorities are offering a reward of $35,000 to anyone with information that leads to the arrest and conviction of whoever killed 9-year-old Zalayia Jenkins. Only a week before the girl was killed by a stray bullet during a shootout, she had asked local police if they would be able to keep her safe.
According to the Huffington Post, Zalayia Jenkins was the victim of an exchange of gunfire between armed gangs outside her Milwaukee home. Zalayia was “huddled” on the floor with her cousins during the attack when a wayward bullet entered the house and struck her on the head, critically injuring her. Zalayia spent less than two weeks on life support until being pronounced legally dead on Monday. The tragic death of the innocent child is made worse by the fact that she was already concerned about her safety within the neighborhood.
According to local news WISN, mere days before the shootout, Zalayia Jenkins had reportedly been jumping rope with a commander of the Milwaukee Police Department, Shunta Boston Smith. She asked the officer if she would be able to protect her.
“I spoke to Cpt. Shunta Boston Smith, who is the District 3 commander, by phone. She’s at the scene,” said Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn. “She was on a neighborhood walk last week, talked to the family about their concerns, [and] jumped rope with the little girl, whose only question was whether or not we could keep her safe. Sadly that question was answered tonight.”
Zalayia Jenkins clung to life for days after being shot in the head, even able to breathe on her own as of Friday of last week. But she did not make it to her 10th birthday, which would have come this Tuesday.
Jon Jones, the older cousin of Zalayia Jenkins, is trying to cope with the loss while waiting for police to track down the person responsible for her death.
“Whoever did this, man – I mean, she’s a little kid, man, nine-years-old, man. I can’t even explain this,” he said. “[Zalayia was] a very wonderful, wonderful child. Energetic, always smiling.”
A GoFundMe page was started for Zalayia Jenkins, asking people for prayers and donations to help get the 9-year-old through her hospital stay. The page has not been updated since her death. However, the page also implores Internet users to help the family of Zalayia Jenkins address gun violence in the community.
“Children are being killed, daughters, sons, mothers, fathers, etc. are dying and ALL of these LIVES MATTER.”
According to Fox 6 News, Milwaukee police and the FBI are also demanding justice for Zalayia Jenkins and offering thousands of dollars in exchange. In a press conference held by Mayor Tom Barrett, Attorney Michael Hupy and FBI Special Agent Bob Shields on Tuesday, separate rewards of $25,000 and $10,000 were offered to anyone with information to find and convict Zalayia’s killer.
Hupy blamed the tragedy on gang violence and urged the community to keep their kids off the streets.
“This is the third time in the last year that I have felt compelled to come forward as a citizen to offer a $25,000 reward when a young child has been shot and killed or injured by bullets coming through walls and windows of their own home. We cannot tolerate a society where children are murdered. Parents — I know you can bring your children up to be better than the gang members who did this.”
Authorities have promised to find the person who killed Zalayia Jenkins. But in the meantime, the people of Milwaukee have to do what they can to prevent future tragedies.
[Image via Shutterstock]