SPRINGFIELD — Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said city police are actively hunting for a man who shot an 11-year-old girl in the leg as she waited for a store selling new Nike Air Jordan sneakers to open Saturday morning.
"Shame on them! Shame on them! Over a ... pair of sneakers!" an angry Sarno said Saturday evening.
The mayor said an "orderly line" had formed outside a local shoe store – Expressions at the Walmart plaza on Boston Road – before the shop had opened for business Saturday morning. But a pair of individuals with possible gang ties "tried to cut the line, " sparking a violent episode in which the girl, an innocent bystander, was shot and wounded, he said.
"They tried to jump the line, " said Sarno, who received a police briefing on the incident. "It just boggles my mind, the uncivilized nature of these unsavory individuals who could have taken the life of an 11-year-old girl." The mayor said he'll be reaching out to the girl and her family, who right now need their privacy and time to deal with the "traumatic situation."
City and state police are searching for one or more suspects, one of whom left behind a camouflage jacket. An extensive ground-and-air search effort, including K-9 units and a state police helicopter, turned up nothing Saturday, but investigators continue to probe the shooting – the second involving a local child injured by gunfire in as many weeks.
"It looks like she's going to be OK, " Springfield Police Detective Joe Brodeur said of the girl, whose name was not publicly released. She was shot in the leg and rushed to Baystate Medical Center for treatment.
The incident was reported just after 8:36 a.m. Saturday, Lt. James Rosso said, adding that no arrests had been made as of early Saturday evening.
Authorities said the 11-year-old girl was standing in a line of people waiting to buy new Air Jordan sneakers at Expressions, 1067 Boston Road, a shoe store located at the Walmart plaza. She was outside MadRag, a clothing shop two stores away from Expressions, when two males in their late teens or early twenties got into verbal dispute that quickly turned physical.
One male pulled out a handgun and reportedly pistol-whipped the other before opening fire on him. It's unknown if the man who was shot at was struck, but the girl was hit in the leg, police said. "We believe she was an innocent victim, " detective Sgt. Kenneth J. Murray said.
Witnesses described the shooter as a black male wearing a camouflage jacket. Murray said police found the jacket nearby and used it to attempt to track the suspect with K-9 units. State police conducted an aerial search with a helicopter, but authorities were unable to locate the gunman. "We were unsuccessful ... he had either been picked up by a car or previously passed through that area, " Murray said.