Down the street from a playground, a pair of blue medical gloves, scattered bits of glass and a puddle of dried blood too stubborn for first responders to fully hose off now serves as a reminder of the bubbly, “talkative” child who was shot to death Saturday morning during a drive-by shooting outside Miami’s Liberty Square housing complex.
The toddler, whose name has not been released by police, was identified by a family acquaintance as 4-year-old Naila Jones, a happy girl who would often visit her unit just two dozen feet or so from where she was shot.
The girl, initially said to have been 3 years old, died at Northshore Hospital, police later clarified.
“I was laying down and I heard ‘pop, pop, pop, pop’ — like four or either five shots,” said Natasha Bellamy, 48. “I ran out and I seen her laying down” in a puddle of blood. Bellamy, who yelled in anguish when she saw the child’s body, said at least one bullet went through the girl’s chin.
One other child and an adult were grazed in the shooting by broken glass, and the child was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital for treatment, Miami Police said Saturday evening. Earlier in the day, police said two “small children” had been injured.
In her decade living at Liberty Square, Bellamy said she has grown accustomed to the sound of gunshots, usually once the sun comes down, but she’s never witnessed something so horrific.
“She was a baby,” Bellamy said.
Miami police spokesman Michael Vega said the incident occurred just before 10:20 a.m. at Northwest 13th Court and 65th Street. After dumping his car on Northwest 62nd Street, the suspected gunman turned himself in at the police department at about 2 p.m., Vega said. The suspect’s name has not been released.
“The motive behind the shooting remains unclear,” Vega added.
Police said the gunman had driven away in a white Nissan with extensive front-end damage, WPLG Local 10 reports. The car was found abandoned near a laundromat about a mile from the shooting.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez was at a youth basketball tournament at the Overtown Youth Center Saturday morning when he heard about a shooting involving children. He quickly left for Liberty Square, where he said he learned from police that the shooting appeared to be related to a financial squabble between a brother and a sister.
He was told that the brother shot at his sister, who was in a car with three children inside. The 4-year-old was fatally wounded. One of the two other children was hit with shattered glass and taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Suarez said the 4-year-old's mother drove the child to the hospital, where the girl died.
"What could possibly be so contentious to cause someone to take a violent act against their sibling with the knowledge that there are kids in the car that can be hurt? It’s incomprehensible," said Suarez, who was with the family when they learned the girl had died.
He said the girl lived in an apartment with more than a half-dozen other children, some of whom were asking if they would see her on Easter Sunday. He said that earlier Saturday, Miami’s SWAT team was called to Little Haiti, where a suicidal man had briefly taken a hostage before killing himself.
“It was obviously a very tragic day in the city,” he said. “It’s another unfortunate, senseless act of violence that needs to stop. People need to find other ways to resolve conflict aside from picking up a gun.”
Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho reacted on Twitter Saturday afternoon.
“Tragically unacceptable! What message does it send to children when as toddlers they become victims of gun violence?” he said. “A 3-year-old [sic] was murdered. Clearly, we as a community are not doing enough.”
Miami police similarly called it a “senseless shooting” on Twitter.
On July 1, 2006, a 9-year-old girl by the name of Sherdavia Jenkins was shot and killed by a stray bullet while playing on her stoop at her home in Liberty Square, the same neighborhood.
On Feb. 20, 2016, 6-year-old King Carter, a first grader at Van E. Blanton Elementary School, was shot dead in front of his Northwest Miami-Dade apartment. The boy was caught in the crossfire of rival groups.
This story has been updated with new information from Miami Police