For the first time since her daughter was shot and killed outside a South Seattle bakery in May, a heartbroken mother is sharing her story.
"She was a very bright girl. The most beautiful smile you would ever see," said Elizabeth Sye. "She was loved by everyone."
She's talking about her 16-year-old daughter, Kahlani Shabazz, who was shot and killed on May 3. Sye has not spoken publicly since Shabazz' death, but because two months have gone by with no arrests and few leads in the case, she felt now was the time to come forward.
"That Wednesday, coming home from school, she said, 'Hey mom, we need to go find a prom outfit; Saturday is going to be here before you know it.' And my grandson had a birthday coming up, so the idea was to go to Borracchini's Bakery, which is a place I've been going to for over 20 years," said Sye. "So we were going to go there and have the cake ordered, and then we were going to go to the mall to see if we could find her prom outfit. But clearly, that didn't happen."
Teen shot outside Borracchini's Bakery in Seattle
Instead, Sye says gunfire erupted along Rainier Avenue South as she prepared to turn into the parking lot of the popular bakery. Sye was driving, and Shabazz sat in the passenger seat of her car.
"I had got into a turning lane, headed northbound on Rainier Avenue South," said Sye. "And I noticed there was a pop, just a single pop. Then maybe seconds later, several pops that followed. At that point, I realized it was a shooting. So I did what any person would do; I decided to kinda get out of the way, thinking I needed to move around because I don't want to get shot."
She pulled into the bakery's parking lot and turned around to make sure her step-daughter and a friend, who were screaming in the backseat, were both okay. The girls in the backseat were not hurt.
Then, Sye says she turned to Shabazz in the passenger seat, and realized she'd been shot.
"I took off my shirt and tried to apply pressure where I thought she'd been hit, but come to find out that was not where she'd been hit," said Sye. "The shot was to the head; it was fatal."
Sye said it's tough to talk about, but it's a story she wants people to hear.
"I was talking to her, and she was already gone. She took her last three breaths, and those last three breaths she took, I took it as 'I love you,' It's something we say. It's something you can get in three breaths. And that was it. That was it," she said. "It's something no one should ever have to go through. And it's something that's going to be forever in my mind when I close my eyes, every second of the day."
Sye hopes that by hearing exactly what it was like to have her daughter die in her arms, a witness might be compelled to come forward with information that could lead to Shabazz' killer.
"Somebody knows something. There's no doubt about it. There was too much traffic that day," she said. "So I believe firmly that someone knows who did it, they know where the person or persons are hiding, they know information about what they did."
The shooting took place shortly after 6 p.m. on May 3. One other person, an adult male, was injured but survived.
Seattle police have said Shabazz was an innocent bystander, killed simply because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"And as easy as it was for my daughter to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, with the person or persons still running loose, it could happen again," said Sye. "And if they have no issues doing it in broad daylight, they can do it again, and they probably will do it again."
Seattle police say the case is still very much an active investigation, and urge anyone with information to contact the Homicide Assault Tipline at 206-233-5000.
"I love her. I miss her. I want her back. And I know that's not going to happen, but what I do want is to encourage folks to come forward, see the hurt in my eyes," said Sye. "I just want somebody to be an adult, be responsible, and turn these people in. That's what I want."