MANHATTAN — A Harlem teen who was a rising basketball phenom was shot dead inside her apartment building early Sunday morning, police said.
Tayshana Murphy, 18, a high school senior who was being actively recruited by college basketball teams, was found dead in the Grant Houses after 4 a.m. Sunday, police said. Police initially said she had been shot once in the head, but later changed their description to say she was shot three times, in the left chest, left hip, and right arm.
Witnesses told the Daily News that Murphy — who was known by the nickname "Chicken" — was shot while trying to run away from a gunman in the fourth-floor hallway of the building at Broadway near 125th Street, where she lived.
Murphy's mother, Tephanie Holston, told the Wall Street Journal that she heard the gunshots from her apartment and raced down the stairs to find her daughter lying on the ground.
A friend who was with Murphy before the murder said she believes she was killed in a case of mistaken identity.
"She was saying 'No, please, I don't have nothing to do with it. She was pleading for her life," friend Teka Taylor, 22, told the News.
Police are investigating the incident and were still searching for suspects as of Sunday night.
Murphy was reportedly outside the apartment complex with her brother before the attack, and may have been mistaken for someone who was involved in a fight with several men nearby, witnesses told the News.
She had just started her senior year at the Murry Bergtraum High School for Business Careers Thursday, her coach told several news outlets.
Despite a spate of injuries and transfers that kept her benched in recent years, Murphy was considered one of the top-ranked women basketball players in the city, and had aspirations to play for the WNBA, according to reports.
Murry Bergtraum basketball coach Ed Grezinsky remembered Murphy as a team player and a kind heart, who supported her team from the bench while she was sidelined by an ACL injury, ESPN.com said.
Grezinsky said he was particularly touched when Murphy texted him to make sure he was ok during Hurricane Irene, according to the sports website.
"No doubt, she will be sorely missed," Murphy's former coach told ESPN.