WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A 1-year-old boy has died after he was shot in the chest Thursday evening in West Palm Beach in a suspected targeted shooting, police said Friday.
A West Palm Beach Police Department spokesman initially reported the child was 4 months old. However, police later clarified to WPTV on Friday that the boy was actually 16 months old.
The child died after undergoing surgery at a hospital, police said.
Investigators said the boy, along with his mother and father, both 20 years old, were sitting in a vehicle just before 6 p.m. Thursday in an alleyway south of Fourth Street and west of Douglass Avenue when at least one shooter approached the car and opened fire.
"The driver of the car, the 20-year-old man, immediately drove the wounded woman and the child to a nearby hospital," West Palm Beach police spokesman Mike Jachles said.
The boy, who was sitting in the back seat of the car, was struck in the chest, his aunt said.
The child's mother was grazed by a bullet and taken to a hospital, where police said she was treated and later released. The man in the car was not hurt.
Taniyah Carter said her sister called her right after the shooting.
"She was so focused on the baby," Carter said. "So she didn't know she was shot. But the whole time she just kept screaming, 'They shot my baby. tThey shot my baby.'"
The gunman fled the scene and has not been captured.
West Palm Beach police are now offering a $10,000 reward to anyone who provides information that leads to an arrest and conviction in the case.
"Our detectives are determined to find the person or persons responsible for the killing of an innocent 16-month-old baby," Jachles said. "No words can describe what that family must be going through."
Police officers on Friday were going vehicle to vehicle, passing out flyers and speaking with drivers near Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard and Tamarind Avenue.
Jachles said the shooting was a targeted attack. However, no other details about a possible motive have been released.
"There is no threat to the neighborhood, per se. This was targeted," Jachles said. "This was not a random attack. These people, or someone in the vehicle, was targeted."
Geneva Thomas, who lives in the neighborhood, said she can't understand why someone would do this.
"We have a lot of kids out here be playing," she said. "That's the only thing I'm worried about, too. These kids and my health. I don't want to get shot by anybody and that's why, from now on, I'm staying in my house."
Deasia Baxtor, who lives in the area, also is worried about gun violence. She refuses to let her two kids in the yard.
"We do a lot outside," she said. "I try to keep them outside, and now that they're shooting right here, I don't really like coming outside anymore."
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West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James released the following statement Friday about the shooting, calling it a "heinous act:"
"I was saddened to learn of the baby’s tragic death and the injuries to his mother which resulted from last night’s targeted shooting. My thoughts and prayers are with their family at this time. The murder of an innocent child is incomprehensible... There is simply too much gun violence throughout our country. It is unfortunate that the state has tied the hands of municipalities from taking any further action against gunmakers."
Anyone with information that can help investigators is asked to call the West Palm Beach Police Department at 561-822-1900 or Crime Stoppers of Palm Beach County at 800-458-TIPS.
The identities and photos of the 1-year-old boy and his 20-year-old mother were provided to WPTV earlier on Friday by a family member. However, since then, the victims' family has invoked Marcy's Law and wishes to keep their identities private. Therefore, out of respect for the victims and their family, WPTV is no longer identifying the child and his mother.