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Dejah Joyner, 12, of Hempstead Village, dies of gunshot wound

Dameon and Keisha Joyner, the parents of Dejah

Dameon and Keisha Joyner, the parents of Dejah Joyner, attend a vigil Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015, in honor of their daughter who was fatally wounded by a stray bullet fired Friday from outside their Hempstead Village. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A 12-year-old Hempstead girl struck in the head by a bullet fired from outside her home as she ate dinner has died, police said Sunday.

And a law enforcement source said investigators are examining a possible feud between neighborhood gangs, including the Bloods and Crips, as a motive for the shooting.

Dejah Joyner was pronounced dead about 7 p.m. Saturday at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, Nassau police said -- 26 hours after the seventh-grader and Girl Scout who loved to dance was felled by a bullet to the brain inside her Dartmouth Street home. No arrests have been made.

Acting Nassau Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter Sunday declined to confirm whether the investigation's focus was gangs or if Dejah or anyone else at the home was targeted.

"We're exploring all possible motives," Krumpter said. "There's nothing more horrific and heinous than a 12-year-old being shot in her living room while eating dinner. It's the act of a coward -- it really is. We will leave no stone unturned and we're gonna arrest this suspect and bring him to justice."

A law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation said detectives are looking at possible links between the shooting and the long-running Bloods-Crips gang feud in the neighborhood and other parts of Nassau, as well as disputes involving other local gangs.

Several known gang members and gang-associated drug dealers in the area are being probed in connection with the case, the source said. The area around the house where Dejah was shot has been the site of prior suspected drug dealing and related violence, and one of the home's occupants may have been targeted in the past as part of gang-related violence, the source said.

Krumpter said he could not speak to any specific incidents when asked about drug dealing and violence around the home, but added: "Homicide has been interviewing everybody in the neighborhood and investigating any kind of criminal activity in the immediate vicinity of the house."

Solving the case is the department's "top investigatory priority" and "significant" resources are being brought to bear, Krumpter said, including the Homicide Squad and Intelligence Unit. Investigators have not yet determined whether a handgun or another more high-powered weapon was used, Krumpter said.

"We have received a number of tips through the tip line and information from the public and they're all being vetted at this time," said Krumpter, referencing the CrimeStoppers tip line, which has offered a $75,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.

Meanwhile, Dejah's grief-stricken parents -- her father clutching a stuffed animal -- attended a prayer vigil Sunday at Antioch Baptist Church in Hempstead, where hundreds turned out to mourn Dejah and decry gun violence. Family members did not speak to the assembled crowd, but later Dejah's mother could be heard crying inside the church.

"My heart is broken, my heart goes out to the family," said Hempstead Village Mayor Wayne Hall, who urged witnesses to come forward with information. "I'm really sick and tired of being sick and tired."

At the family's house Sunday, a bullet hole through a front window remained uncovered. Visitors came and went amid a heavy police presence.

Acting Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas called Dejah's death "heartbreaking" in a statement Sunday.

"Dejah Joyner's life was violently cut short before she even had a chance to live it -- this is a heartbreaking tragedy and we will do everything in our power to make sure that the gunman is brought to justice," she said.

Also at the vigil was Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray, who offered condolences to the family.

"She could've saved our world, but we'll never know," Murray said. "Hug your children a little tighter."


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