'This is a societal issue': Milwaukee mayor reacts to drive-by shooting that killed 11-year-old girl

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee police are looking for the person or people responsible for shooting two young sisters on Saturday, Oct. 1. The girls were sitting in the back seat of a car when someone drove by and opened fire. Eleven-year-old Ta'Niyla Parker was killed and her 5-year-old was seriously injured. 

The shooting happened near Sherman and Burleigh just before 9 p.m. Sources say the girls were on their way home from dinner with family. After the shots were fired, police say the girls were taken to the District 7 police station for medical attention. Ta'Niyla died at the hospital hours later.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett on Monday, Oct. 4, reacted to the shooting at a news conference. He said he didn't speak to the public the day after the shooting because he was at a loss for words. 

"I simply do not understand how an individual can fire a gun...and kill a little girl and seriously injure her sister. I don't know what the reasons are," said Mayor Barrett.  "As a dad it breaks my heart, as a mayor it makes me angry and as a human being it makes me incredibly frustrated."

"This is very much a core issue," Mayor Barrett continued. "Who made this decision to fire that gun? Who's the person that gave that individual that gun? We can't shy away from that part of the conversation either. We know for a fact these individuals are not able to possess guns but we also know that they are getting these guns...I'd rather talk about that than another senseless shooting." 

Mayor Barrett went on to say, "This is a societal issue. It is a very serious problem."

Community activists say many people are working to address rampant violence, but add that could take time. Frank Lockett is part of the Stop the Violence ministry. He said, "It's the people's job to come together and make change within our community."

Lockett cautions it could take a while to stop or even slow the cycle of gun violence in Milwaukee. His signs were up near where 11-year-old Ta’Niyla Parker was shot and killed, and where her 5-year-old sister was seriously injured.

Lockett said, "It's up to us. We have to want this change. We have to come together to build these relationships."

Mayor Barrett says he had to wait to comment on Ta'Niyla's death because he was simply at a loss for words. "I cannot, for the life of me, think of a reason why an individual would take those actions. And I think that's something our community has to ask itself."

Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas issued a call for action Monday, urging leaders to address social and economic problems he says are contributing to the violence. The sheriff wrote in part: "We cannot give up hope that we will find solutions to the serious gun violence problem plaguing our community."

Mayor Barrett said, "At its core, this is very much a personal issue. It's who is the person who made the decision to fire that gun?" The mayor says he's encouraged the police department seems to have solid information on a suspect, but so far, no one has been arrested. It's the latest deadly shooting in a year of record-breaking gun violence.

"I think one central piece of this is there are unaddressed needs, be it financial, economic, but also unaddressed needs as it relates to mental health and wellbeing," said Arnitta Holliman, head of the Milwaukee Office of Violence Prevention.

The Office of Violence Prevention says it's funding programs so young people have places to go, and their violence interrupters are out on the streets trying to stop retaliation.

"We know that that's an issue we're facing in parts of the city right now where groups are trying to get back at each other," Mayor Barrett said.

Mayor Barrett says he also wants more funding for police.

"I know we have to do better," he said. "I know we can do better."

The mayor says he plans to speak to the girls' family.

In a statement, Acting Police Chief Jeffrey Norman said,

"Our hearts go out to everyone that was impacted by the homicide of 11-year-old Ta'Niyla R. Parker. This tragedy is horrendous and our investigators are working diligently to bring those responsible to justice. I am asking for assistance from our community to come forward with any information to help us identify and locate the individual responsible for Taniyla’s death. I offer my deepest sympathies and condolences to Ta'Niyla’s family and friends.”

Anyone with any information is asked to contact Milwaukee police at (414) 935-7360 or Crime Stoppers at (414) 224-TIPS or P3 Tips App to remain anonymous.

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