NBC 4 New York
Brownsville, Brooklyn residents say they know who shot and killed a child in a stroller Sunday night. Ida Siegal reports.
Family, friends and distraught community members spelled out the name "Antiq" with pieces of charcoal and lit them on fire on the sidewalk in front of the home of the 1-year-old boy who was fatally shot in the head as his parents pushed his stroller across a Brooklyn street Sunday.
Police said Antiq Hennis and his parents were crossing Livonia Avenue in Brownsville, on the way to the baby's grandmother's house, when he was hit in the left side of his face by gunfire at about 7:20 p.m.
He was taken to a hospital but did not survive his injuries. The boy's great-grandmother, Lenore Steele, called him "the sweetest baby."
"He was such a beautiful little baby, smiling and talking to everybody," said Steele.
Mayor Bloomberg called the child's death a tragedy for the entire city.
Four shots were fired, and one bullet struck little Antiq, according to officials. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said it went through his head. Two bullets were found in the stroller, though it wasn't clear if one of them was the one that killed Antiq. Four shell casings were recovered.
Steele said her grandson fell on the stroller when the gunfire sounded and said, "Grandma, my baby got shot! My baby got shot, Grandma!"
Kelly said police are investigating if the shooting was gang-involved and have been trying to talk to the baby's father, Anthony Hennis, whom the police commissioner said has not been cooperating. Hennis has a long history of drug and weapons arrests, and investigators believe he was the intended target after a dispute he had with the shooter's brother.
Hennis wasn't hurt in the gunfire.
Kelly also said police have some solid leads in the investigation, and are canvassing surveillance video and a nearby playground in their search for evidence.
Witnesses described a chaotic scene when the boy was shot.
"It was like four shots, one after the next, bang, bang, bang, bang," said Orlando Joseph, who was nearby.
Cynthia Ballantyne added, "I got really scared and I panicked, so I turn back and everybody started running and people say 'it's a child, the child's in the stroller.'"
No arrests have been made. The boy's father and mother couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
Bloomberg said the toddler's murder highlights the need for more gun control.
"When background checks aren't conducted on gun sales, weapons flow to the illegal market and into the hands of people like last night's shooters," he said. "It happens over and over again."
Community leaders, family and advocates gathered Monday to call for the suspect -- or anyone who knows the suspect -- to come forward as the baby's mother, wiping away tears, thanked "everyone for their support."
"I'm asking the people in the community to turn that young man in," said John Rodriguez, president of the 75th precinct's community council. "That young man shot that 1-year-old. Turn him in, or turn yourself in, because you're a coward. We don't shoot babies in our community."
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," Bloomberg said before the West Indian Day Parade Monday.
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.
--Ida Siegal contributed reporting