One year ago, after the shooting death of his young daughter rocked a community already beset by violent tragedies, James Page called the shooters “cowards” and said he’d been going through “hell.”
Police believed the bullets that felled Jada were meant for him — but since then, Page hasn’t cooperated with police and the shooter still hasn’t been caught.
Page and the girl’s mother were in Las Vegas and didn’t attend Monday’s news conference marking the one-year anniversary of 8-year-old Jada’s murder. But other family members did and they urged the public to come forward with tips.
“Speak up. Help us. Help yourself,” Jada’s great aunt, Miami-Dade Police Officer Brendolyn Spence, said during Monday’s gathering.
Police, who have been stymied in making an arrest, insist they’re close to finding Jada’s killer.
“Keep looking over your shoulder because the cavalry is coming,” said Rich Raphael, the lead detective on the case.
Outgoing and usually with a big smile, Jada was beginning her first week of fourth grade when her life ended a year ago Monday in the front yard of her Northwest Miami-Dade home.
It was a Sunday afternoon and Jada and her father were in the front yard getting ready to go to the movies when a black Ford Fusion pulled up in front of the home. Someone from inside the car opened fire. Page was shot in the chest. Jada was hit in the back of the head as she was making her way to the front porch.
She died in the hospital two days later.
For the past year, investigators probing Jada’s death have been trying to unravel a tangled web of street conflicts associated with James Page.
Law-enforcement sources believe Page is a drug dealer who was targeted by an enemy over a deal that soured. They believe he knows the plotters. Several shootings — and at least one murder — that happened after Jada’s death are believed to be linked to the feud.
But pinning down enough evidence has been challenging.
“This has been one of those cases with lots of hurdles,” said Miami-Dade Homicide Maj. Calvin James. “We are close to resolution on this case.”
Jada’s shooting death tore open fresh wounds in a community that had seen too many children lost to gunfire. She was the third child killed by gunfire in Miami-Dade over a 17-month span.
In April 2015, Marlon Eason, 10, was shot and killed by a stray bullet as he went to retrieve a basketball in the front yard of his Overtown home. And in February 2016, a bullet fired from feuding teens went astray and took the life of 6-year-old King Carter, who was on his way to the store in Northwest Miami-Dade to buy some candy.
Like the two previous shootings, Jada’s death struck a chord. Friends, family and clergy rallied. There have been walks for Jada on a regular basis since her death. Her cousin Eugene Spence posted an emotional video telling the shooters what they did was wrong and that they need to turn themselves in.
The reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a shooter has been upped to $26,000.
Dominique Brown, Jada’s mother, did not attend Monday’s news conference but acknowledged Jada’s death in a series of Facebook posts from Las Vegas, where she suggested she attended Saturday’s Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor boxing match.
In one, Brown thanked the media and said, “keeping my baby and her story relevant a year later.”
“Though I replay these days over and over in my head daily, I wish not to do it in front of the cameras,” she wrote, adding in a separate post: “#Justice4Jada.”
At Miami-Dade headquarters in Doral, Jada’s grandmother Lisa Brown and aunt Spence said Jada’s mother was too distraught.
“My niece is experiencing a lot of pain,” she said. “It’s to the point that she can’t sleep or eat.”
Anyone with information on Jada’s murder should call Miami-Dade’s homicide bureau at 305-471-2400, or Miami-Dade CrimeStoppers at 305-471-TIPS.