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Tampa teen shot dead, another hurt in home invasion

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Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 03:49 PM

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TAMPA -

A teenage girl is dead and her 13-year-old brother in critical condition after they were shot in their South Tampa home early Sunday morning in what police say was not a random act.

Kiara Brito, 16, a junior at Robinson High School, was killed, and Jeremi Brito, a student at Madison Middle School, was taken to Tampa General Hospital, the Tampa Police Department said.

Both were found shot in their home at 3021 Van Buren Drive, between Bayshore Boulevard and South MacDill Avenue a few minutes before 6 a.m.

The teens live with their mother, who was not home at the time, said Laura McElroy, a Tampa Police spokeswoman. The teens were the only ones in the home.

"We believe this house was targeted," she said.

Police don't know why the house was targeted or have a description of the suspect, McElroy said. This afternoon, the teens' mother is at the hospital with her son.

Police received several reports of gunfire from neighbors, McElroy said.

Neighbor Elaine Oliveri couldn't sleep and heard at least one shot. She said the shooting has shaken neighbors.

"It's just sad we can't live in a nice neighborhood (without) worrying about somebody under your window," she said.

Brito was a member of the Robinson girls' basketball team. The team's coach, Jess Vitale, said she spent the day calling players.

"I've never had to make phone calls like this before, and I hope to never make them again," Vitale said.

A vigil was held outside the family home Sunday night. An estimated 150 people gathered outside to pray for Kiara Brito and her brother, Jerermi.

Brito was a member of the National Honor Society and had a grade point average above 4.0, Vitale said.

She would have returned next school year as the team's lone senior and starting point guard, Vitale said.

"She was probably the most competitive girl on the team," Vitale said. "She was one of the smallest members of the team, but she didn't back down from a challenge. She was always very light-hearted and helped create a balance on the court with the intensity of the game."

Brito was an unselfish player who preferred to pass the ball to allow the opportunity for her teammates to shoot, Vitale said.

There have been seasons when the team hasn't been as competitive, but Brito remained optimistic and encouraged her teammates.

"Kiara always found something positive about our situation, no matter how bad it was," Vitale said. "She would find the positive and kept everyone upbeat. She always played to have fun."

Jaycee Padilla, a classmate at Robinson High, said she cried when she learned the news that her friend had died. They were friends since sixth grade and had played basketball on a regular basis in middle school.

She was friendly and popular, Padilla said. They last saw each other at school on Friday, Padilla said.

"It's just going to be hard because she's not going to be in school now," Padilla said. Especially next year, we were all going to be seniors and I was going to graduate with her."

Stay with TBO.com for developments.

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