First there was a vigil. Children held candles. Pastors led prayers. And a mother overcome with grief from the death of her 2-year-old son was escorted away.
Then the community spoke. Leaders implored anyone with information to speak up. Residents complained of a lack of employment and housing. And police said that almost a week after a child was killed by gunfire, they had few answers.
On Wednesday night, five days after little Carnell Williams-Thomas was struck and killed by a single bullet as he played with his new scooter in the courtyard of his South Miami-Dade home, Goulds leaders and grieving residents gathered to pay respects for a dead child and voice their concerns over a neighborhood that’s seen far too much violence.
“We’re here now showing our respect to a 2-year-old who was killed, unfortunately, in this spot,” said Miami-Dade Commissioner Dennis Moss, who called for Wednesday’s gathering. “Think about that. A 2-year-old should be here having fun.”
It was just after sunset Friday night when Carnell, playing with his scooter at the Arthur Mays Villas with his mother, was hit by a single bullet and killed. Police say they have few leads. A single bullet casing was found not far away, but police haven’t said if they think it’s related to Carnell’s death.
The shooting left a public housing complex that has become much too used to violence over the years, stunned. Police went door-to-door looking for anyone with a hint of information. Residents and friends built shrines of stuffed animals in the grassy courtyard.
On Wednesday, not far from where Carnell’s life ended, South Dade minister Denzel Burnside begged anyone with information to come forward.
“It’s cool to get people who are destructive out of your community,” he told the crowd of about 100, which included Carnell’s mother Dorothy Williams and his grandmother Barbara Williams.
Later, pastors told Moss and other elected leaders that resources were needed to stop the violence: money and more police officers.
Asked to update residents on the search for the shooter, Miami-Dade Police Cmdr. Samuel Bronson offered this: “The killer’s not in custody. That’s an update.”
Miami-Dade Police Maj. Calvin James, who heads up homicide, said he couldn’t comment specifically on the investigation, but said his detectives “have made some gains.”
Near the end of the two-hour meeting, a group of mothers of murdered children who called themselves “Mothers Fighting for Justice,” locked arms and spoke in solidarity.
“You don’t want to go through what we’ve been through,” said Leatha Bush. “So if you see something, say something. Enough is enough.”