Authorities say a 20-year-old man may be able to shed light on a drive-by shooting in Bradenton that blinded a 4-year-old boy permanently in one eye.
The Manatee County Sheriff's Office identified Horatio Papillion as a "person of interest" Monday in the drive-by shooting that happened just after 11 p.m. Saturday.
At first authorities believed the house was the target, but now they believe shots were fired from the suspect’s vehicle toward another vehicle and one of the rounds entered the house where the boy lives with his mother and her boyfriend, said Dave Bristow, a sheriff's office spokesman.
"We have been told that Mr. Papillion may have been in one of those vehicles," Bristow said. "He may have been in the vehicle that produced the shot. That is the information we have received. Of course, we haven't talked to him yet. We definitely want to talk to him. We are out looking for him."
The rental home where the shooting took place is on the property of the Congregational United Church of Christ.
The Rev. Bob Sichta of Congregational United Church of Christ said although reports have listed the boy as stable, his condition is precarious.
"I can tell you what the family says they are comfortable revealing," Sichta said. "The bullet struck his head. It went down through his head and left him blind in one eye. That is permanent. He has been responding to conversations. He has movement in his arms and legs. But the next couple of days are crucial. It is too soon to know if he has permanent brain damage. The reports that he is stable upset me. He might be stable but he has been blinded in one eye."
Sichta said the boy's mother and her boyfriend rent the home from the church and face at least one more month of hospitalization for the boy.
"I think, like anyone else, they are terrified," Sichta said. "They are wondering what will happen. They are not able to work and need to have money to pay rent. No money is coming in while they have to be with the child."
Sichta said he bonded with the young family when they moved in.
"They had a birthday party and rented a bounce house," Sichta said. "They are the kind of good tenants and neighbors who ask permission to do things. He is a typical 4-year-old, fun-loving and life-loving. I wonder how he will feel when he goes back into the home. Will he feel safe? We don't know."
Anyone with information about the case, including Papillion's whereabouts, can call the sheriff's office at 941-747-3011, ext. 2535, or CrimeStoppers at 866-634-TIPS.
For those who wish to contribute to the family of the injured boy, donations can be made on the church website bradentoncucc.org specifying funds for the "Injured boy" or call 941-756-1018.