Mourners visit a memorial for Antiq Hennis in the Brownsville neighborhood in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Monday. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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.
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 in the Brownsville neighborhood when shots rang out at about 7:20 p.m., police said.
“All of a sudden, we hear shots,” Hennis’ grandmother, Lenore Steele, told reporters Monday at the site of the shooting.
After the gunfire sounded, Hennis ran up to her, she said.
“And he fell on the ground and said, ‘Grandma, my baby got shot! My baby got shot, Grandma!”
“He was such a beautiful little baby, smiling and talking to everybody,” Steele said, flanked by community group leaders and mayoral candidate Bill Thompson.
Anti-violence activist Anthony Herbert, who heads a group called Advocates Without Borders, said its members were also gathering information about the shooting and urging the gunman to turn himself in.
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” and political candidates talked about gun violence.
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. He said the baby’s father isn’t cooperating with police and has a criminal record but didn’t elaborate.
The boy’s father and mother couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. A phone number for the father wasn’t listed, and activists who spoke at a news conference said the mother wouldn’t be making a statement Monday.
“The family is suffering right now,” said Bishop Willie Billips of the Church of Faith, Hope and Charity, who drove the parents to the hospital to identify the body of their only child.
“To have to take a young couple to identify their baby’s body is horrible,” he said.
Shirley Jones-Baisden, a tenant association vice president in a local public housing complex, wept as she recalled being with the baby’s mother at the hospital.
“They need some peace,” Jones-Baisden said.
While killings hit a record low in the city last year and are on track to drop further this year, “we know that is cold comfort to any grieving parent or friends,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said before the parade.
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, there had been seven killings this year, half as many as during the same period in 2012.
Brownsville is a struggling section of central Brooklyn, with a poverty rate 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.
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.
In another case of violence toward toddlers in New York City, 3-year-old Tharell Edward was shot in the head and wounded Aug. 24 as he slept in his family’s Brooklyn apartment where an acquaintance was watching him.
Akeem Bernard, a friend of the baby sitter, was charged in the shooting. Through a lawyer, he has denied the allegations.