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Family of 5-Year-Old Laylah Petersen, Killed in Drive-By Shooting, Donates Her Heart

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The heart of a 5-year-old Milwaukee girl will live on in another child as police search for the drive-by shooter whose errant bullet struck the girl’s head while she sat on her grandfather’s lap.

“This is a horrific act,” Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn said at a news conference on Saturday, at which Laylah Petersen’s family announced they had donated her heart. “We know that. And the people that feel it as keenly as the family are our police officers.”

Petersen and her grandfather were on a couch inside the grandparents’ home when, according to police, about a dozen bullets that were fired at the house tore through a wall Thursday night. One struck Laylah in the head. There have been no arrests.

Investigators said they don’t believe the family members were the intended victims, and the chief said the residence may have been mistakenly targeted.

“Remember this face,” said Rich Schwoegler, a family spokesman, who held up a photo of a smiling Laylah. “We’re no longer going to allow these things to happen.”

Indeed, Flynn said that so far this year, 11 children under the age of 13 had been shot in Milwaukee, compared to two last year. And with Laylah’s parents, grandparents and other family members at his side for the emotional news conference, he pledged to bring her killer or killers to justice.

“We know that as awful as this event has been, she is going to live on and save a life,” he said.

And until the case is solved, he vowed to carry Laylah’s photo in his chest pocket alongside those of his own grandkids.

“I’m going to do one thing – and I’m going to do it until those guys go to jail. I’m going to have this baby right next to the pocket with my grandchildren. She’s going to be in our hearts, like her little baby heart is going to be in somebody else.”

“We are going to carry on,” he said. “We are going to support and affirm this family’s grief by doing our job.”

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