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Bible study teacher killed in crossfire of gang shootout after prayer meeting

(Wikimedia Commons/Dcmcgov)Grand Avenue, Downtown Escondido.

A 55-year-old Bible study teacher was killed during a gang shootout in Escondido, California as she was on her way home from a prayer meeting.

Catherine Kennedy, a Bible study teacher at the Church of St. Timothy, was driving along East Grand Avenue at about 9 p.m. when she was struck in the head by a stray bullet, causing her to lose control of her vehicle and crash into an unoccupied parked car.

"This was an innocent victim driving down the street we believe coming home from a church function and just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time," Escondido Lt. Justin Murphy said, according to NBC San Diego.

Barbara Allen, 48, told The San Diego Union-Tribue that she was inside her apartment when she heard the gunshots and the sound of a car crash. She said she rushed outside and found Kennedy slouched over behind the wheel of her car.

Allen noted that Kennedy still had a pulse when the medics arrived, but she died after she was transported to a hospital.

Murphy said he never encountered this kind of shooting in his 19 years with the department.

"We generally have a gang problem but I would not say it's this kind of violence that we're used to seeing in Escondido," he said.

"This is certainly outside of the norm for what we generally see on a daily or weekly basis in Escondido. It's not something we're used to seeing," he added.

A spokeswoman for the church said that its pastor, Father Fernando Ramirez, was too upset to offer any comment on Kennedy's death to the local media. "Cathy was one of the most wonderful people you ever want to meet," she said.

Kennedy, who has worked as a registered dental hygienist at Brilliant Dental in Escondido, is survived by her husband Kevin and her daughter, Alicia de la Rosa.

Escondido police Chief Craig Carter described the incident as a "senseless tragedy" and vowed to crackdown on street gangs. He said he believes that this was the first time an innocent bystander died in a random shooting in Escondido.

Carter said that the investigation is ongoing, and authorities are not yet sure if more than one weapon was fired. The police have asked for the help of the public in solving the crime.

A few dozen people gathered at the church for a private prayer service on Wednesday. That night, around 40 people gathered for a candlelight vigil on Grand Avenue, where Kennedy's car crashed.

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