Family, friends mourn loss of 7-year-old girl hit by gunfire in shootout

Jacksonville police searching for men, vehicles involved in shooting

By Destiny McKeiver - Multi-media journalist, Allyson Henning - Reporter, Roxy Tyler - Web producer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Family and friends are mourning the loss of a 7-year-old girl who was killed when she was hit by gunfire on 103rd Street Saturday evening.

Jacksonville police are looking for two groups of people who fired shots at each other nearby in the death of Heidy Rivas Villanueva. A potential reward of $11,000 is being offered for information leading to an arrest.

Police the 7-year-old victim was in a car with her father and a younger sibling about 6 p.m. waiting for their mom at a strip mall on 103rd just west of Ricker Road. JSO said two men on foot approached another vehicle in the parking lot and got into a confrontation with the people inside. Investigators said gunfire was exchanged from by both groups, which continued as the two men ran through the parking lot.

Police said a bullet from the exchange entered the family's car and hit the 7-year-old in the head. The father and witnesses took the girl to the emergency room. The child was transferred to Wolfson Children's Hospital, but she died at 8:49 p.m. Saturday.

Witnesses reported seeing two men running from the gunfire get into a green Nissan Altima.

Police posted photos of the persons of interest and a vehicle, hoping someone can help locate them.

Chris Aparicio is related to the family of the child. He said he needs the community’s support. 

"I can’t explain, it hurts," Aparicio said. "Especially since they’re going to start school soon. I feel bad. I mean I still don’t know."

One woman said she showed up at the scene minutes after the shooting.

"I have just been praying," Gina said. "It’s just too much crime. It could’ve been us."

On Twitter, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry described the shooting as "heartbreaking."

"These are our children," Curry said in a tweet. "I’ve spoken to the Sheriff. Our cops are in pursuit of these terrible people. Prayers for the child and family. Our law enforcement will bring the full force of the law on those who committed this."

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help with funeral expenses. Click here if you would like to help.

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