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Suspects sought in connection with the shooting of 2 girls, ages 9 and 11, who were caught in the crossfire on a New York playground

On Tuesday, the manhunt continued for two gunmen who opened fire on a man in a New York playground, hitting two children in the line of fire, police said.

The shooting in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Brownsville occurred Monday night as the girls were playing on a field at Hilltop Playground, according to New York Police Department investigators.

The injured girls were identified by relatives as 9-year-old Ruanna Brown and her 11-year-old cousin Empress Alexander Davis.

Relatives said Empress's mother was sitting on a nearby park bench watching the girls play on the artificial turf of the main square when the shooting occurred.

“My heart fell out of my chest when I heard my daughter had been shot. My first thought was, 'Lord, take my life and not hers,'” Ruanna's mother Melissa Alexander told ABC station WABC in New York City. “I'm at a loss for words. I'm devastated. I'm hurt. I've been crying all night and all morning. I just want my baby to be safe.”

Alexander said her daughter was shot in the right knee, while Empress, who was still hospitalized Tuesday, was shot in the back.

Ruanna told WABC on Tuesday that she was “doing well.”

“I was a little nervous so I didn't talk much, but the doctors tried to get me to talk a lot so I wouldn't fall asleep,” said Ruanna, who has been released from the hospital and is recovering at home. “So I didn't really have much to say, but they asked me questions about my summer.”

Alexander said her daughter was awake all night because she was afraid of being alone.

In an interview from her hospital bed, Empress recalled details of the shooting.

“I could feel my shoulder and then my cousin was screaming about a leg or a knee,” Empress told WABC.

The shooting occurred at about 9:05 p.m. while the girls were playing, Assistant Chief Scott Henderson, commanding officer of the Brooklyn North Patrol Division, said at a news conference at the playground where the girls were shot.

“Unfortunately, we find ourselves here on a beautiful spring evening to discuss yet another senseless act of gun violence targeting our most vulnerable youth,” Henderson said.

According to Henderson, preliminary investigations indicate that two shooters fired at least six shots at one person. While the shots missed, the children were struck by errant bullets. According to Henderson, there is no evidence that the shots were fired at the children.

“It is currently unknown who the intended target was,” Henderson said.

John Mastronardi, deputy chief of police of the NYPD and commander of the Detective Borough of Brooklyn North, said surveillance video reviewed by detectives showed two armed men entering the playground and both opening fire on the as-yet-unidentified person, but ultimately hitting the girls.

As of Tuesday afternoon, no arrests had been announced and detectives were asking the public for help in identifying the shooters.

Henderson said family members drove both girls to Brookdale Hospital.

The motive for the shooting remains under investigation.

“We are currently investigating several possible motives for these types of incidents, but we are not ruling out gang-related incidents, which are problematic in this particular Brooklyn neighborhood,” Mastronnardi said.

He pointed to several pairs of shoes scattered around the playground, including those of the young victims.

Henderson said investigators found bullet casings of two different calibers at the scene.

“Our investigators will work diligently to apprehend those responsible for this horrific act of violence,” Henderson said.

Alexander had a message for the attackers who had injured the children: “Learn your life.”

“There are so many more constructive things to do. You are putting children's lives at risk. Innocent children,” Alexander said.

Parents and grandparents who frequently visit the park said they were concerned about their children because of the shooting.

“I'm angry. I'm upset. It hurts me because it's the local kids that are in this park all the time. I was in the park with my one-year-old grandson,” a resident told WABC, adding that she knew one of the girls who was shot and saw her at the playground over the weekend.

The young victims are among 324 children aged 11 or younger who were shot in incidents across the country in the first five months of the year. Ninety-four of them were killed, according to the Gun Violence Archive website, which tracks all shootings in the United States.