NEWBURGH, N.Y. – A high school senior who was among two people killed at a Halloween party where gunfire broke out had made a last-minute decision to go with a friend, her mother said.
Omani Free, who was 18 years old, decided to go to the party, about five blocks from her home in Newburgh, when a friend became available on Saturday night and otherwise would have been due home around the time the gunfire broke out, said her mother, Rhonda Valentine-Free.
Police in Newburgh, 70 miles north of New York City, said the shooting took place just before 1 a.m. Sunday inside an apartment building, killing Free and 20-year-old Tabitha Cruz. Five people were wounded, but none of the injuries was considered life-threatening. Authorities were looking for a suspect or suspects, who fled the scene.
Valentine-Free said she had left home for her own social engagement and didn't know her daughter had decided to go to the party. She said she and her husband first got word that something had happened when a friend of their 15-year-old son who had been at the party called to say their daughter had been shot. She said they went to a hospital, where their daughter died hours later.
"She was a sweet girl," Valentine-Free said. "She was my chocolate baby."
She said her daughter had gone to a party in another section of the building before without incident.