Months after 6-year-old girl was shot by stray bullet, ‘this is a good day’

Posted Dec 20, 2018

Liya Williams doesn’t think much about the firecracker on July 4th.

That’s what it had to be in the mind of this 6-year-old. Not a stray bullet.

Unfortunately, though, it was a bullet that struck this cheery little girl in the leg when she was walking with her father after watching fireworks at Nat Turner Park in Newark five months ago.

“When it first happened, she’d say it was a firecracker,” said her mother, Emmarean Williams, of Irvington. “I really don’t think she knows what happened."

Liya, however, has recovered nicely after physical therapy got her walking, then running through the house. Tuesday night, she was dancing in her school’s winter concert. On Wednesday, Liya bounced around with delight when she was among Newark area kids invited to kick off the city’s give away of more than 30,000 toys to residents.

“She (Liya) is good now," Williams said.

Especially when she got her hands on the “Cry Baby" doll that she stuffed into a large bag with other toys that her mother dragged toward the doorway when it was time to leave.

Williams is in a better place, too, saying she’s relieved the ordeal is behind them. At first she thought it was her sister who had been shot when she got the call. “Imagine my shock seeing my daughter. It was hard to take."

Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose said a suspect is in custody and the of the U.S. Attorney’s Office is handling the case.

The toy give-away, though, makes the incident a distant memory. Plus, Mayor Ras Baraka said it allows the fire and police department to give back to the city and to continue to build relationship with residents.

“We pull together as a community and we take care of one another," Baraka said.

This is the third year that the police and fire departments, Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security has partnered with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves Toys for Tots Program. Newark kids invited to the annual event were victims of crime, displaced by fire or faced another challenge or hardship.

Shariah Marsden, 12, hopes to return to Philip’s Academy Charter School in February. In August, she was diagnosed with a rare childhood cancer - undifferentiated embryonal sarcoma of the liver – that made her stomach swell.

“It had gotten to the size of her head," said her mother, Shareen Henderson. “It was growing and it was sucking the life out of her."

Shariah said she first noticed her stomach protruding during camp this summer, but she just thought it was weight gain until she kept vomiting after eating. She had trouble walking and couldn’t’ sleep. Laying down on her back, she said, was uncomfortable, too.

Once she received the diagnosis, Shariah said she was scared and had questions.

“I was like, ‘why me?’ I didn’t do anything wrong."

She’s been doing everything right getting aggressive treatment, which she is close to completing.

“I’m so excited," she said.

That means school and being in contact with her friends beyond Instagram and snap chat.

Jonathan Kafando, 9, was all smiles. The toys he stashed away took his mind away from times he’s been bullied, said Wander Richardson, his caretaker, who surprised him with the event.

“He wanted to fight back. I told him to never to do that. You might hurt somebody. He’s a good kid."

Jonathan wasn’t thinking about fighting Wednesday as he made his way around the room collecting goodies.

“I think this is a good day," Jonathan said. “We get toys to celebrate Christmas."

Christmas came a week early for the kids assembled at a police department facility on Orange Street. Santa Clause flew overhead in a helicopter waving to the kids looking up.

He then pulled up in a fire truck and did what Santa does, asking the kids what they wanted for Christmas.

On this occasion, he really didn’t have to. The kids got first dibs as they scattered to grab as many toys as they could.

Liya did, too. She deserved it after spending a summer in and out of the hospital for treatment on her leg. The wound, her mother said, became infected. She had to wear a cast and had to use a wheelchair at one point.

“As soon as her feet hit the floor, she was ready to start walking," Williams said.

And running, and dancing, and just being a kid again

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