CRIME

Louisville police seek help in finding 7-year-old's killer

Two days after a stray bullet smashed through a kitchen window and struck a 7-year-old boy as he ate cake, Louisville police pleaded for help Tuesday in tracking down the child's killer.

In asking for witnesses to the gunfire to come forward, the lead detective said investigators had done interviews and were searching for people suspected of being in the area where the shooting erupted Sunday night, killing first grader Dequante Hobbs Jr. in his home.

"If this was your child, I guarantee, you would hope and pray that someone with an answer would come forward and help us resolve this," Detective Stephen Snider said at police headquarters. "This little child deserves justice."

Police have said a fight at a dice game led to the boy's killing. But Snider said investigators still have "many unanswered questions."

"I'm pleading with you, if you were there — and you know who you are — you know that this was, I'm sure, an unintended target," he said.

"Come forward and speak to me, speak to one of our detectives in our homicide unit, and help me identify this person that is responsible for shooting Dequante," he added.

The boy, known as "Q'' by his family, was playing on his iPad and eating a bedtime snack at his kitchen table when the bullet smashed through a window and struck him in the head.

His death comes amid Louisville's struggles to combat its record-setting homicide rate. The boy's death was the 49th homicide investigated in Louisville this year, police said. The department investigated a record 118 homicides in 2016, The Courier-Journal reported.

The wave of killings has struck Dequante's family multiple times. Three of his teenage cousins were murdered in the past year, said family spokesman Christopher 2X, an anti-violence activist.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer expressed outrage as the city reacted to the boy's death.

"Here's a kid minding his own business, getting ready to go to bed, and the next day he's not going to school," the mayor said Tuesday. "And then you say, 'How did this happen?' And you see some knuckleheads out in some backyard shooting at each other like they're going to solve some kind of problem with a gun. And a young kid gets caught in the crossfire."

The city needs to band together and say: "Enough," he said. "There has to be a collective will of the community to say, 'Violence is not a solution.'"

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin took to Facebook on Monday to condemn the boy's death and promise action. In his video, he bemoaned a "huge cultural problem" contributing to the bloodshed, and said he would offer a "solution" in coming days to combat urban violence.

The Republican governor offered no details but said: "It has nothing to do with spending more money. It has nothing to do with more police on the streets. It has everything to do about engaging you as members of our communities."

Fischer, a Democrat, said the governor had not reached out to him about the plan, but said he welcomed the input.

"Hopefully, if there's resources and good ideas, we'll put them to work immediately," the mayor said.