By Srijan Sen
Nearly six months ago, the city was left stunned after bullets shredded through a residence on the northwest side of the city, fatally wounding 5-year-old Laylah Petersen. Laylah was sitting on her grandfather’s lap in their house near N. 58th St. and W. Fairmount Ave when the bullets struck her from unknown assailants.
Although investigation is ongoing, police have been unable to track down those responsible for the crime. Due to a lack of information, the motive behind the sudden shooting also remains unclear.
In such a case where a specific house was targeted and no other, it is quite possible the shooters had the wrong house.
“Quite frankly, at this point we’re befuddled as to motive for this crime,” said Capt. Aaron Raap, who commands the Metropolitan Investigations Division, at the time of the shooting.
“Normally when we respond to shootings of individuals, in most circumstances, that victim is the intended target.”
Attorney Michael Hupy has offered an additional reward of $25,000 adding to the $10,000 offered by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and a local group called Citizens for Urban Justice. Clear Channel Outdoor also donated digital billboards to display Laylah’s photo and the reward information.
The $35,000 reward will go to the first person with information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person who fired the shot that killed Laylah Petersen.
“I visited with the Petersen family at Christmas and I had hoped the crime would have been solved by now,” said Hupy. “Frankly, as an activist, I am not just going to sit back and watch the community in which I have raised my family become more violent and lawless.”
Last week, the mother stood in front of the same house to announce the reward and pleaded that anyone with information come forward. She was joined by members of the community, the first responding officers, detectives overseeing the case and Police Chief Edward Flynn.
“I’ve been a young girl, a teenager,” Ashley Fogl said. “I’ve grown to become a woman and a mother, but my Laylah will not.”
According to Chief Flynn, the Milwaukee Police have redirected resources to chase down “literally hundreds of leads” while conducting “dozens of interviews.”
Family spokesperson Rev. Richard Schwoegler III appealed to the family of the suspects, pushing for a message of justice through peace and reconciliation.
In 2014, Laylah Petersen became the 76th homicide victim in the city and the third victim who was a child under the age of 13. To Flynn, Laylah represents the best and worst of Milwaukee.
“She stands for good things about Milwaukee: innocence, a safe place to raise children, a place of opportunity,” Flynn said.
“But she also stands for the tragedy of Milwaukee of excessive violence, too many guns in the hands of criminals, too much bloodshed, too many lives lost and too many opportunities never realized.”