Kayla Ferrante was riding home after her high school graduation party in Tulsa when shots rang out: One bullet pierced the rear license plate of her boyfriend’s Cadillac STS, traveled through the trunk and two seats and hit her in the back, ending a life that family and friends said was marked by determination and purpose.
Ferrante, 17, had graduated last Friday – a year early. On Saturday, she had been to a family graduation party and a friend’s house and was just blocks from home when several shots were fired, NBC station KJRH reported.
Sgt. Dave Walker of the Tulsa police homicide unit told msnbc.com that the shooting was no accident but that police don’t know if Ferrante or her boyfriend, Niekko Perez, 19, was the target or if it was a random attack.
"We cannot understand who would do this or why and desperately want anyone with information to do the right thing and come forward," Ferrante’s family wrote in a statement emailed to KJRH. "Kayla was doing nothing wrong. She wasn't in a place she shouldn't have been; she was just a girl coming home before curfew."
Family members said Ferrante was planning to jump straight into community college classes to work toward a degree in occupational therapy for the disabled, according to media reports.
"She made life-long, long-term decisions in the last year," Jimmy Foreman, the Sandusky Avenue Christian Church youth minister, said Thursday during a memorial service for her, the Tulsa World reported.
Her mother, Roxanne Thornton, said that her daughter always demonstrated great determination – beginning when she wanted to walk on her own as a baby, the World reported.
"She had found her calling in life, which was to work with children with disabilities, and planned to volunteer at Little Lighthouse this summer, while also taking her first college course," the family's statement said.
On the night of the shooting, Perez was driving Ferrante home from a friend’s house when the shots were fired. Walker said three bullets struck the Cadillac from behind: The fatal round went through Ferrante and out the windshield.
Walker told msnbc.com that police were not releasing the caliber of gun that was used, but he described it as a high-powered weapon, probably an assault-style rifle.
Walker said anyone with specific knowledge was asked to call Crime Stoppers at 918-596-2677 or the homicide tip line at 918-798-8477.
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