A 4-year-old girl was shot in the head inside her North Philadelphia home about noon Thursday and died about an hour later, police said.
The shooting was in a second-floor bedroom in a rowhouse on the 1800 block of North 20th Street, they said. The girl's mother and 3-year-old sister were home at the time, said Lt. John Stanford, a police spokesman.
A police source said the child was shot above an eye. A semiautomatic weapon was recovered from the bedroom, the source said.
Officers arrived to find the mother on the front steps, holding the girl, Stanford said. The child was taken to Hahnemann University Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 12:58 p.m., police said.
Police declined to identify the child or her mother.
Homicide Lt. Philip Riehl said the girl's mother was being questioned Thursday at the Homicide Unit.
Neighbors and relatives identified the mother as Shakeya Holmes. Some acquaintances said Holmes lived in the house with a boyfriend. They said they did not know if he was the father of either girl.
Riehl said, "All we know is we have a 4-year-old girl who was shot with a gun who shouldn't have been."
He said the child lived with her mother and sister but he was not sure if her father lived in the house.
Asked if he thought the girl might have accidentally shot herself, Riehl said, "I very rarely think that 3-year-olds or 4-year-olds can pull the trigger on a gun with an 8-pound trigger pull."
Margie Malavet, 50, of North Philadelphia, was leaving a clinic across the street when she saw the distraught mother outside.
"I just saw her come out of the house, saying, 'My baby, my baby, my baby!' " Malavet said. "I ran up to her and the baby was laying on the floor. She was just hysterical."
Neighbors said they did not know the family well, but had seen the girls playing outside.
Around 2:30 p.m., three young men, including one who said he was a cousin, tried to get into the house. Police turned them away, citing the investigation.
"That's our family," one man screamed.
Later, a 21-year-old man from North Philadelphia said he was the slain girl's cousin, but had not seen the family for a while. "It's too much," he said, "I don't know what to think."
Around 4 p.m., after police cleared the yellow crime-scene tape from the block, two men went up to the house with a bucket of bleach and a broom. One swept blood stains off the concrete front step and the sidewalk.