Mya Patel

SHREVEPORT, La. -- The Caddo Parish coroner has identified the young girl who was shot over the weekend and later died as five-year-old Mya Patel.

"She is was so full of life," said Jena Johnston, a lead dance instructor who worked with Mya at Vicki's School of Dance in Shreveport. "Just a precious, precious soul that we're definitely going to miss."

Both Johnston and her fellow lead instructor Ashleigh Brun said Patel really shined when she started to dance,

"She was one of our first original dancers when we opened the Shreveport studio three years ago," said Johnston. "She came in as a shy, little three-year-old girl. We've gotten to watch her blossom over the last three years."

Saturday, Patel was struck by a bullet, allegedly fired by Joseph Smith during an argument in a Shreveport motel parking lot. Smith was later arrested in Texas. Mya was taken the hospital but died two days later. Mya was supposed to be at dance class Monday night, when her instructors got the news.

"We're both school teachers," said Brun. "I was at recess and I teach fifth grade. So they understood that I was upset and I was able to leave for just a minute."

"My kindergarteners were at PE when I got the call, thank God," said Johnston. "I had to leave to get myself together. Just thinking about looking at those other precious five-year-olds that I spend my days with, and that it could be anyone's baby. That's a lot to take in."

But their last time with Mya is a happy memory, the day she got to try on the dress she was supposed to wear for her upcoming recital.

"Their parents get to come in, and they get to try them on and do their dance for their parents," said Brun. "It's always one of those really fun experiences for everyone. We look forward to it too."

"We're just happy that she got to try that on because that's something that she looked forward to," said Johnston.

Johnston and Brun described the dance school as a close knit family. Moving forward, from one family to another, they're offering their support to Mya's loved ones.

"They're in my thoughts and prayers," said Brun.

"It's something unfathomable," said Johnston. "No parent should ever have to bury a child and especially in this way. We are covering them in prayer and I hope they know that they're so loved."

On Thursday night, Boone Funeral Home in Bossier City will offer a prayer service in Mya's honor. Funeral services will be held Friday. Instead of flowers, Patel's family is asking people to donate to Tiny Smiling Faces, a non-profit helping children in India.


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