Sarah Wierstad had dreams of becoming a chef someday. But Sunday night, as the 24-year-old single mother made her way home from work on St. Paul's East Side, she was shot and killed just steps from her front door.

Police were called to the intersection of Beaumont Street E. and N. Bedford Street in the Railroad Island area about 8 p.m. and found Wierstad lying on the ground near the road. She was taken to Regions Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

On Monday, as police were working to confirm identification of the body, friends identified Wierstad as the victim.

"It's just a really hard day," said JoAnn Richardson, the campus dining director at the Alton Memory Care assisted living facility in St. Paul, where Wierstad worked.

Wierstad, who loved working with the elderly, was at the facility until about 7 p.m. Sunday, Richardson said.

Wierstad also worked for A'viands food services management company and was studying at Le Cordon Bleu, said her friend Jess Cimbura. Wierstad was focused on school, work and her 5-year-old daughter, Cimbura said.

"She had a big heart," Cimbura said.

A vigil was planned for Wierstad Monday night.

Her shooting death was the 10th St. Paul homicide this year and the third on the East Side in the past week. In 2014, a total of 11 homicides were reported in St. Paul.

"The neighborhood is concerned. The entire city is concerned," said Steve Linders, a spokesman for the St. Paul Police Department.

As of Monday afternoon, investigators were continuing to interview witnesses, but no one had been arrested in connection with the shooting. It's not yet known whether Wierstad was shot at random or was targeted, Linders said.

Last Wednesday, Synika G. James, 37, was shot and killed while attending a vigil in the Dayton's Bluff neighborhood. One night later, Emmett L. Wilson-Shaw, 24, was fatally shot while walking along the Earl Street Bridge a few blocks from where James was shot. No arrests have been made in those cases.

On Friday, police spokesman Sgt. Mike Ernster said the city was taking steps to address the uptick in gun violence.

He said the police department is reassigning some officers from specialty units to cover "hot spots," including on the East Side. He declined to identify the locations but said the public "will notice an increase in officer presence."

Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495

Twitter: @nicolenorfleet