NEW YORK – Police investigating the death of a 1-year-old boy who was shot in his stroller during a walk on a city street believe his father was the intended target, Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Monday.
Authorities have some leads in the killing of Antiq Hennis in Brooklyn on Sunday night and believe his death may be gang-related, Kelly said.
The New York Post reported Monday that residents of the Brownsville neighborhood where the shooting took place believe they know the gunman's identity and are working with police to bring him into custody.
One neighborhood activist, Tony Herbert, told the paper that the shooting stemmed from "a beef between the shooter’s brother and the baby’s father."
Antiq's father, Anthony Hennis, had just gone to pick up the boy at the home of the baby's mother, Cherise Miller, and take him to visit Hennis' grandmother, Kelly said. Hennis, 21, put the boy in the stroller and was pushing him across a street when shots rang out at about 7:20 p.m., police said.
"I saw a man with a stroller screaming: `My baby got shot! My baby got shot,' " witness Gina Gamboa, 23, told the Post. "He was going crazy."
Grief and outrage over the toddler's shooting loomed over the annual West Indian Day Parade about a mile and a half away, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the killing "a tragedy for his family, for this community, for the entire city."
Four shots were fired, and one hit the boy in the left side of his head; he was declared dead on arrival at the hospital. The gunfire left four .45-caliber shell casings on the corner and bullet holes in the stroller, Kelly told reporters before the parade.
"We have some leads, and those leads are being aggressively followed," the commissioner said.
The boy's family couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
"Today, we all are grieving," Bloomberg said before the parade. "We just have to stop this carnage, and we have to keep doing what we've been doing."
The mayor renewed both his call for Congress to pass stricter gun laws and his condemnation of recent moves by the City Council and a federal judge to rein in the police department's use of the stop-and-frisk tactic, which critics call heavy-handed and racially biased but the mayor says is key to successful policing.
"The ideologues on the far right will continue to tell us our gun laws don't need to be fixed, while the ideologues on the left will continue to tell us we need to handcuff our police officers, who have been unfathomably successful in reducing violent crime," he said.
"A misguided ruling from a federal judge and two bills passed by the city council will make it harder for the NYPD to continue to reduce shootings and violent crimes, which primarily occur in minority communities, as we saw once again [Sunday] night," Bloomberg added
As of Aug. 25, killings and shootings were down about 26 percent compared to the same time last year, according to the mayor's office.
In the police precinct that includes Brownsville, a struggling section of central Brooklyn, there had been seven killings this year, half as many as during the same period in 2012. The poverty rate in Brownsville is about twice the citywide rate, according to a 2012 analysis of government data by New York University's Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy.
Bishop Willie Billips of the Church of Faith, Hope and Charity, who knows the boy's father, told newspapers that he drove the parents to the hospital to identify the body of their only child.
"I'm furious about what I've just seen. I'm outraged," Billips told the Daily News. "A 1-year-old baby lying on the bed? It's horrible."
It was at least the second case of a toddler being shot to death in a stroller this year.
In March, a woman walking home from a post office in Brunswick, Ga., with her 13-month-old son was accosted by a gunman who demanded her purse, then shot her in the leg and fired a shot at the child in his stroller after she told him she had no money, authorities said.
An 18-year-old man was convicted Friday of murder in the death of Antonio Santiago despite his attorney's attempts to cast guilt upon several others, including the child's parents.
The Associated Press contributed to this report