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Shots fired during candlelight vigil hit man in the face, girl sitting on porch

Thirteen-year-old Lexi Behan and her mom were waiting on the porch of their Buffalo home for a taxi when the shots rang out.

One shot hit a 33-year-old man, identified as Michael Ortiz by a police source, in the face as he and several dozen others attended a Thursday night candlelight vigil on the street, a few doors away from Lexi's house on Grant Street.

Another shot hit Lexi, a shy girl who loves googly-eyed stuffed animals.

The bullet struck Lexi in the chest and pierced both of her lungs, according to Meg Sano, a family friend who was visiting the teen at Women and Children's Hospital on Friday. The teen had just undergone a four-hour surgery in the hospital's pediatric intensive care unit. She was being kept alive by a ventilator.

Doctors had told her family that Lexi was in serious by stable condition, Sano said.

The shooting occurred as Ortiz and others were gathered Thursday night on Grant Street at a vigil to remember Ralph McKinney, a well-known neighborhood resident who died of natural causes on the Fourth of July, according to Buffalo police.

Ortiz was in critical condition, but expected to live. Police said the girl is also expected to survive.

"The bullet did strike her in, I believe, the left shoulder, traveled through her chest and lodged somewhere in the right shoulder," Buffalo Police Lt. Jeff Rinaldo said Friday at a news conference outside Erie County Medical Center.

He said a second child, a 9-year-old girl, suffered a cut to her face when she fell while running from the shooting.

Now, detectives are looking for whoever opened fire on the crowd.

Thursday night's vigil was held at the corner of Grant and Breckenridge streets. Mourners brought dozens of candles to remember McKinney, who had been hospitalized after suffering a seizure before he finally died Tuesday, which was also his birthday, according to Dennis Matos, 35, who owns and lives above a barbershop near where the shooting occurred.

Matos was in his residence at the time of the shooting. He said he believes the shooter could have been targeting observers of the vigil.

Police are looking into the possibility that the shooter was targeting one or two of the people who came to the vigil, Rinaldo said.

"We think based on our initial investigation that the vigil was completely peaceful," Rinaldo said. "It as not an enormous gathering. A couple dozen people at best."

The shooter was not part of the crowd and may have been across the street, Rinaldo said.

"Unfortunately this violence – when it happens – it doesn't just affect gang members, it doesn't just affect criminals. There's all this collateral damage," Rinaldo said. "In this case you have a 13-year-old girl. What she did wrong was sit on her front porch with her parents and now she gets struck by a bullet. Thankfully she's expected to be OK. Who wants their child in that situation?"

Lexi, who is going into ninth grade, was with her mother and several younger relatives, waiting for a taxi to take her to her grandmother's house, when she was shot, Sano said.

"She is very shy and very quiet, but very loving. She's an innocent 13-year-old," Sano said. "She still loves googly-eyed stuffed animals. Just last week she was playing on the sidewalk with chalk."

Sano said Lexi's mother has been very protective of her. "Even being hypervigilant isn't going to keep you from being shot," Sano said.

Police asked anyone with information about the shooting to call or text the police confidential TIPCALL line at 716-847-2255.

Matos said violence occurs often on his street, which he described as cursed. “This street’s hexed,” he said. “A lot of bad stuff happens here. But I know we can turn it around if the community comes together and focuses on the good we can do here.”

McKinney was one of the people who did just that, Matos said. A former semi-professional football player, McKinney worked with autistic children and was admired by many in the neighborhood, Matos said.



Buffalo man, 13-year-old girl wounded in shooting at Grant and Breckenridge

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