HOPEWELL, Va. (WRIC) — The young girl who was shot in Hopewell on Friday afternoon, just a few days before her ninth birthday, has now been identified.

Melody Hackney, superintendent of Hopewell City Schools, posted on to the Hopewell City Public Schools Facebook page on Saturday, Dec. 31, formally identifying the victim of the shooting as 8-year-old P’Aris Moore, a third grade student at Harry E. James Elementary School.

Out of respect for the loving family of one of our 3rd grade HEJ students, and in order to properly notify our faculty still out on winter break, we delayed formal notification of the sudden and tragic death of beautiful, Miss P’Aris Moore until today.

Melody Hackney

Around 2:15 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 30, officers were called to a residence in the 2300 block of Freeman Street for a reported shooting.

Upon their arrival, officers found an 8-year-old girl with an apparent gunshot wound to the chest. After police initiated life-saving measures with Hopewell EMS, the girl was taken to TriCities Hospital where she later died from her injuries.

P’Aris was a precious angel, well known and supported by her elementary school family. Please join me in keeping her family, her HEJ family and classmates, our partners in the police department and our entire community in your thoughts and prayers in the difficult days ahead.

Melody Hackney

The girl’s mother, Brionna Taylor, was in the process of planning her daughter’s ninth birthday celebration. Moore would have been 9 years old on Tuesday, Jan 3.

“It’s killing me to have energy in my legs to stand up and now I’m going home to five kids and not six,” she said. “Somebody has got to have a heart and turn themselves in! Just have a heart!” 

The senseless gun violence in our city must stop, and as sad as it is, we can only pray that this horrific incident and resulting loss of life will be the catalyst for the change and action we need in Hopewell to get this under control once and for all.

Melody Hackney

According to A.J. Starke, Hopewell’s Chief of Police, Moore was playing in the residence’s front yard when the suspect vehicle turned onto Freeman Street, slowed down and fired a single shot.

Witnesses told authorities that they saw a light-colored four-door sedan with tinted windows driving through the area at the time of the shooting. Police believe the vehicle may be related to the homicide, but a motive is unknown at this time.

“Somebody knows who fired that shot,” Starke said. “Someone knows who was in that silver-colored vehicle that came down Freeman Street.”

And while I know we are all absolutely heartbroken as we begin to mourn her life and death, may our ONLY New Year’s resolution for 2023 be justice for this sweet baby and a community commitment and plan to ensure this never happens again. My sincerest condolences to all impacted by this tragedy.

Melody Hackney

“This angers me. I’m angry,” said A.J. Starke, Hopewell’s Chief of Police. “Kids should be able to play in their yard. They should be able to play in their yard.”

I have an especially heavy heart for our HEJ family, privileged to have known, served and loved this beautiful soul taken from us way too soon. Thank you to the faculty and staff for the difference you made in her life during the short time she had on this earth. God help us.

Melody Hackney

This shooting is the third shooting in this area within just a few days. On Thursday, Dec. 29, a man who was shot in the elbow in the 1300 block of New York Avenue, while a short distance away on the 3000 block of Boston Street, a car was damaged by gunfire a little over an hour later. Both of these shootings were blocks away from the shooting that killed Moore on Friday evening.