A day after a pregnant mom was shot and killed on a Miami Gardens street, her family gathered to weep and wonder how they went from planning for the arrival of a new baby boy to mourning the loss of his mother.
There were no answers Monday. And no arrests.
Police passed out handbills asking for witnesses to step forward.
Qualecia James, 21, who was seven months pregnant and had a 3-year-old daughter, was shot while sitting in the backseat of a car Sunday afternoon, at the intersection of Northwest 182nd Street and 32nd Avenue. Doctors saved the baby. The boy James was carrying was delivered and remained in critical condition at Jackson Memorial Hospital Monday night.
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But he will never know his mother, except in photographs.
Shocked and somber, family members and friends gathered outside the bright orange home where James and her daughter lived with James’ grandmother, Bernadette Deriso.
The adults fought back tears and comforted each other. The daughter, not fully grasping the gravity of what had happened, played with her friends.
Leroy James struggled to accept that his first-born daughter was gone.
“It’s all like a bad dream,” he said, just before going to check on his newborn grandson at the hospital. “A parent should never have to bury their baby.”
The hospital did not release information on the preemie’s prognosis.
Deriso said James had worked to put her life on track for the sake of her daughter and for the son she was expecting.
“She was working at Walmart. She was talking about going back to school,” Deriso said.
She attended Miami Northwestern Senior High and was a cheerleader. But, her father said, after getting involved with “the wrong crowd” at Northwestern, she switched to Miami Central, where she graduated.
He described his daughter as “loving,” and “a great mother.”
“All she did was take care of her kid,” he said.
Police had not released the names of any potential suspects or confirmed who was in the vehicle with James, saying that the investigation is ongoing. Family members said the other occupants were the baby’s father and a friend.
The gray car was traveling north on Northwest 32nd Avenue at about 2 p.m. when a vehicle pulled alongside and several shots were fired, police said. James was struck in the head and airlifted to Jackson, where she died.
Deriso hopes the child’s father and the other occupant know who the shooters were.
According to public records, the man identified as the baby’s father was arrested in 2012 for carrying a concealed firearm and resisting an officer without violence. He was put on probation for the two charges last April. He was not available for comment Monday.
“All I want is justice,” Deriso said.
The victim’s father believes that the two men were the intended targets.
“She just got in the way,” James said. “ I don’t think they meant to hit her.”
James’ Facebook wall was flooded with comments from stunned and grieving friends.
As Deriso held a picture of James, she asked her great-granddaughter what had happened to her mother. The child gave a simple reply: “She dead.”
Leroy James said he and his relatives are now making funeral plans.
“I am trying to pull myself together and be strong,” he said.
Anyone with information is asked to call Miami Gardens police at 305-474-1641 or Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers anonymously at 305-471-8477. A reward of up to $3,000 is being offered for tips leading to an arrest.