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Too Young to Die: Zainee Hailey

The 13-year-old honor-roll student recently had begun breaking from her shy demeanor by cheer-leading and singing in her church's youth choir.

Zainee Hailey and her younger brother loved competition. After they carried the trash outside to the curb, they would always run inside their home and race to the top of the stairs. Zainee usually won.

They also challenged each other while playing Wii games, including "Just Dance 4" and "Michael Jackson: The Experience."

Zainee, 13, was an eighth-grade honor-roll student at Bragaw Avenue Elementary School in her hometown of Newark, N.J. Her favorite subject was social studies. Though quiet, she had been a member of the cheer-leading squad for two years, one of several activities that helped her to break from her shy demeanor.

“She was what they call a 'quiet leader,'” her grandfather, Michael Peterson, told msnbc.

As an active member in the New Zion Baptist Church community, Zainee sang in the youth choir, participated in plays, and volunteered at summer camp. She anticipated becoming an assistant counselor there this year.

She also helped elderly people carry groceries to their cars outside shopping plazas and visited senior citizens as a volunteer for a local organization.

"She was growing up to be a young lady," Peterson said. "You don’t realize things until they're gone, how much she touched people."

Zainee was shot and killed by a stray bullet while bringing the trash to the corner of the street outside her home in Newark on Dec. 25, 2013. Two other teenagers were killed during the incident. Police arrested the suspected gunman.

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