Oklahoma High School Graduate Killed by 'High-Powered Weapon'

PHOTO: Kayla Ferrante of Tulsa, OK was shot and killed on her way home, May 26, 2012.PlayTulsa Police Department
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An Oklahoma teen was shot and killed the day after her high school graduation, just yards from her home, leading police to believe the bullet was fired from a "high-powered rifle."

Kayla Ferrante, 17, graduated from her Tulsa, Okla., high school Friday, a year early in order to jump-start a career working with special-needs students, which her family said was her passion.

After a family celebration Saturday, she went to a friend's house and later that night headed for home with her boyfriend driving.

"She was headed home with her boyfriend trying to make a midnight curfew and she was within a half block of her residence when shots were fired at the car they were in, striking her one time and ultimately causing her death," Det. Victor Regalado of the Tulsa Police Department said.

Regalado said "several" shots were fired, but the one that hit Kayla pierced the license plate on the back of the car, shot through the trunk and hit her in the back before passing through her.

"Based on the penetration, as well as some other things that we've collected, we were able to determine that it was a high-powered weapon," Regalado said. He declined to disclose the model of the weapon.

Kayla was rushed to a hospital where she died during surgery, according to authorities. Her boyfriend was not injured in the shooting.

With no witnesses or suspects, authorities are asking for the public's help and searching for a motive in the killing.

"There are a variety of potential motives, but nothing solid at this point," Regalado said. "We're exploring the fact that this could be a random shooting, that it was intentional, that either one of them could have been a target, or both."

Regalado said authorities are still investigating Kayla and her boyfriend's backgrounds, but preliminary investigations show, "Neither one of them appears to have been involved in any type of high-risk behavior, like drugs or gangs."

When asked whether there were any security cameras in the neighborhood that might have captured the shooting, Regalado said, "No comment."

He said authorities are asking for help from any potential witnesses or even people whose spouses or significant others might have arrived home late Saturday night and acted strangely.

"At this stage in the investigation, we're open to anything," he said. "There's somebody out there that saw something."

Kayla's family did not respond to a request for comment, but released a statement expressing gratitude for the community's concern and support and said they did not want Kayla to be "portrayed as an anonymous teenager who was shot or a crime statistic."

"She was a wonderful young woman who was a beloved daughter, big sister, niece, granddaughter, friend and girlfriend," the statement said. "She had found her calling in life, which was to work with children with disabilities and planned to volunteer at Little Lighthouse this summer, while also taking her first college course."

The family said Kayla was always concerned with others and would always help friends through difficult times and protect her little brother. She had recently gone on a mission trip to work with children.

"As her family and friends, we cannot understand who would do this or why and desperately want anyone with information to do the right thing and come forward," they wrote. "Kayla was doing nothing wrong. She wasn't in a place she shouldn't have been, she was just a girl coming home before curfew."