OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A stray bullet that killed a 5-year-old girl Wednesday as she ate breakfast in her Omaha home may have come from as far as a block away, authorities said as they pleaded for suspects to step forward.
Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said at a press conference Wednesday night that Payton Benson did not appear to be the intended target of the bullet, which authorities believe came from a morning shooting at least a block away. It involved several individuals and included the use of multiple weapons.
Payton was with her mother when the bullet ripped through her north Omaha home. She was later pronounced dead at a hospital. No one has been arrested in the case, which is being treated as a criminal homicide. The shooting took place in an area that has had reports of gang and gun violence.
"I want to take a moment to talk to the assailants in this case who were involved in the gunfire that struck and killed Payton Benson," Schmaderer said at the press conference. "You know who you are and law enforcement will find out who you are. It may not have been your bullet that struck this little girl. So do the right thing and do yourself a favor in the process. Come down and talk to law enforcement and tell us what you know."
Mayor Jean Stothert expressed her condolences to Payton's parents as well as Ben Gray, a member of the City Council who is related to the family. "In our city, every life matters," she said. "And every violent death is unacceptable. When a child becomes a victim of such an unthinkable act, we must all stand together to support the family, and then we must be part of the solution."
Police said they have located a dark-colored Jeep or sport utility vehicle that they believe is connected to the shooting. They released a photo of the vehicle and a photo of three male suspects near the car. The public is encouraged to help identify the suspects.
Omaha City Councilman Ben Gray said the girl's father is his nephew. Councilman Pete Festersen said he and Gray had been at the opening of a new business shortly before hearing about of the shooting. "A day of extreme highs and extreme lows," he told the Omaha World-Herald. "We celebrated 300 new jobs for north Omaha and a couple of hours later, we had this tragedy."
Authorities are offering a $5,000 reward for information that will lead to an arrest.