WATERVILLE — The father of 7-year-old Emahleeah Frost said Sunday he wants to know why someone fired a gun Friday at their apartment building on Summer Street in Waterville, seriously injuring his daughter.

Emahleeah Frost, 7, was recovering Sunday at Maine Medical Center in Portland after being shot Friday afternoon while she was inside her family’s apartment at 42 Summer St. in Waterville. The bullet was fired by a drive-by shooter for whom police were still searching Sunday evening. Photo courtesy of Davina Petchonka

“I want answers,” Charles Frost Jr. said from Maine Medical Center in Portland. “I want justice. I want to know who did this and why.”

At about 3:30 p.m. Friday, Emahleeah was having a snack in her bedroom on the second floor of her family’s apartment at 42 Summer St. when a drive-by shooter targeted the building, according to police.

A bullet remained lodged Sunday in one Emahleeah’s vertebrae. It missed her spinal cord by about an inch, according to her father.

“Another inch and she would have been paralyzed,” he said.

Interviewed just before 2 p.m. Sunday, Charles Frost said his daughter was doing much better.

“She’s resting right now,” he said. “They removed the catheter. They fitted her for a chest and neck brace and they’re planning on removing one of two chest tubes today. They plan on having her up and eventually start moving and try to do a little walking.”

He said Emahleeah is expected to remain at the hospital for at least another week and will have to wear the brace for about three months.

Meanwhile, Waterville police have been working all weekend on the case, according to Sgt. David Caron.

“We are still actively investigating all leads that have come in, and there’s nothing new to report,” Caron said just before 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

Caron said police are urging anyone who might have been in the area of the shooting Friday to call Waterville police at 207-680-4700 and ask for Detective Daryl Gordon, the lead investigator in the case. If Gordon is not there, they should leave a message with a dispatcher or ask to speak to a police officer, Caron said.

The experience has been frightening not only for Emahleeah but also for her sister, Amber, 6, who was with her at the time of the shooting, according to their father.

Asked how he and the children’s mother, Davina Petchonka, are doing, Charles Frost said it has been very hard, and they are angry to think anyone would shoot a little girl.

“We are trying to hold it together but, at the same time, completely outraged,” he said.”How are they sleeping at night, knowing they hurt a child? I can’t say enough that I just want to know who’s responsible and why. That’s all she (Emahleeah) wants. She, herself, is asking, ‘Why would anybody do this to me?’ No child, no parent should have to go through that.”

The couple have been offered housing at a Ronald McDonald House while Emahleeah is at the hospital, but they have opted instead to stay at her hospital room. Her father said they do not want her to wake up scared and wonder where her parents are. Their daughter has told them she does not want to go back to the Summer Street apartment.

“We have to find a new place to live that’s going to be more accommodating for her, where she can actually feel safer and not have to worry about who’s going to hurt her next,” he said. “To hear that coming out of the mouth of a 7-year-old, it breaks my heart. It should be the furthest thing from her mind.”

Charles Frost said the medical staff at Maine Medical Center has been caring and attentive, and Emahleeah is getting everything she needs.

“They are taking excellent care of her,” he said. “They are so wonderful here. They make her feel comfortable and safe, and people here are just wonderful. I could not begin to express my gratitude for all the first responders and the nurses and doctors and the community itself.”

The schools and community also are helping, and a GoFundMe campaign for Emahleeah has reached $10,700, he said.

“The community is definitely pulling together, and they’re all hoping for the same thing,” Charles Frost said. “They want answers. They want to know how somebody could do this.”

He said Emahleeah and her family are receiving much support from people they do not even know.

“People around the state are reaching out and sending their love and support,” he said.

Charles Frost said his parents were expected to bring Amber, Emahleeah’s younger sister, to visit her Sunday.

“It’s going to be a long road for her — for all of us,” he said. “Our main concern is her having a speedy recovery and her getting back to normal — running and playing and singing and having a blast.”

Charles Frost said Emahleeah gets upset when he makes telephone calls about the shooting — passing on leads to detectives, and so forth — so he leaves her hospital room.

“It’s just unbelievable,” he said. “I keep thinking this is a bad dream and I’m going to wake up at some point. And when I wake up, it’s complete reality. It’s horrible. I can’t even imagine what’s going on in her head.”

After the shooting Friday, police, firefighters and rescue workers from Delta Ambulance Service rushed to the scene at the intersection of Summer and Gold streets, where the Maine State Police Major Crimes Unit soon followed.

Police, who had blocked traffic from coming near the building, worked into the night and early Saturday gathering evidence and talking with people.

Emahleeah was taken to Thayer Center for Health in Waterville, and then by a LifeFlight helicopter to Maine Medical Center in Portland.

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