Alder Hill was riding his bike home after visiting a cousin when someone grabbed him, dragged him into a small empty grass field between some homes and filled his body with bullets, police said.
When police reached the scene less than a block from Liberty City’s Northwestern High School, they found dozens of people from a nearby street party standing around the 15-year-old’s body.
Some had taken pictures. Others used their video cameras, police were told.
The scene got even more surreal: As police were trying to clear the area while teenagers and media milled about, gunshots were clearly heard from a few blocks away where a former Northwestern High School student named Jaquan Leonard was killed. He was 21.
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Police don’t believe Saturday night’s shootings are connected, but haven’t ruled it out.
They also managed to retrieve some chilling video footage of Alder from the high school’s rooftop. Though they haven’t released it, police say it shows the teen riding his bike south on Northwest 10th Avenue at 69th Street just before 8 p.m. Then the camera pans away and quickly swivels back to the bicycle — lying on the ground without Alder.
The brazen murders, on top of a string of shooting deaths of Northwestern students in the past year — all off campus — have seasoned Miami detectives furious and stunned. Alder’s murder added to a growing list of teens cut down by gunfire in the past year that now stands at almost three dozen.
“His only mistake was riding a bike, maybe in the wrong neighborhood,” Miami homicide Sgt. Julio Pino said Thursday. “This was an execution that occurred here of an innocent child. We’re in desperate need of the community coming together and stepping forward.”
With so many young lives lost to gunfire at the northern end of the county in the past year, Miami and Miami-Dade police have created task forces and prioritized trying to stop and solve the crimes. It’s become common to see almost the entire homicide detective staff in Miami working a murder. Northwestern High, which has lost four students in the past year to gun violence, offers counseling sessions.
Still, the murders continue.
Alder had no criminal record and was not involved in any type of shady activity that police know of. The only home within clear view of the murder, adjacent and east of the rectangular grass plot of land where Alder was killed, is abandoned. He was shot partially out in the open, next to some tall shrubbery and about 30 feet from a large oak that would have shielded the shooting.
Police theorize that Alder realized his life was in danger when he reached that spot, so he began to struggle. They also say Alder was likely just in the wrong neighborhood at the wrong time, visiting a cousin who moved there recently and who may have a beef with others living close by. Alder’s home is about 10 blocks south of where he was killed. The teen had dropped out school after attending eighth grade at Allapattah Middle School.
And though dozens of people witnessed at least a part of the confrontation between Alder and his assailant, no one has come forward out of fear of retaliation. Pino, nearing retirement, got emotional Thursday and said law enforcement would help witnesses relocate if necessary.
“People came here and photographed and videoed the body before police were ever called,” said the police sergeant.
Also Thursday, distraught family members and a gaggle of seasoned Miami homicide detectives gathered at the spot where Alder’s life ended. On the ground at their feet was a stack of stuffed animals. A cold rain drizzled.
“His mother hasn’t been eating. She lost her son,” said Alder’s aunt Krystal Mond. “We just want justice for my nephew.”
Chatel Mond, standing next to her sister, was too overcome by grief to speak. So another aunt of Alder’s, Toi Cato, stepped forward.
“He was a good person. He didn’t deserve this. My sister doesn’t deserve to be crying,” Cato said. “She’s got to get up in the morning and tell her kids Alder isn’t here. She can’t even cry anymore.”