Amiere Castro, a 7-year-old with great grades and a love of sports, spent Sunday with his brother and cousins, playing with Star Wars action figures.
Dravein “Pop” Duke, 19, a former Killian High student, was recently off probation for stealing exotic reptiles and trying to sell them — while armed — to a South Miami pet store.
Their lives intersected, police say, in a spasm of bloodshed. Detectives say Duke, riding inside a passing truck, peppered a Richmond Heights home with a volley of gunfire in daylight Sunday, killing Amiere as he and his mother visited family in the suburban South Miami-Dade neighborhood.
Amiere’s killing left relatives — members of a large family spread from Miami to Pennsylvania who have already been wracked by gun violence over the years — grieving, while Miami-Dade homicide detectives hunted for Duke to charge him with second-degree murder.
Late Monday, Miami-Dade police arrested Duke’s alleged getaway driver, Maxwell Trewin, 18, on a charge of a second-degree murder. Trewin, on probation for burglary and grand theft, was bitten by a police dog during his arrest.
Law enforcement sources said investigators believe Duke, Trewin and several others had gone to a home in the 15100 block of Jackson Street earlier Sunday to buy marijuana. A fight broke out, with shots being fired at Duke, sources said. He and Trewin left, armed themselves with a rifle, and returned to shoot up the house.
Duke “should be considered armed and dangerous,” police noted in a wanted bulletin.
The killing is the latest in a string of shootings of young people in Miami-Dade County this year. So far, more than 30 children and teens have been killed by gunfire, including Amiere, and more than twice that many have been shot and wounded.
“This is very frustrating,” said Tangela Sears, founder of the Miami support group Mothers of Murdered Children. “Our community has turned into a war zone.”
The boy’s death mirrors the case of 10-year-old Marlon Eason, shot to death in Overtown in March. Prosecutors say two gang members killed Marlon while firing at a rival; they are awaiting trial.
On Monday, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Dennis Moss, who represents Richmond Heights, called the killers “community terrorists.”
“We know who these few bad apples are who are terrorizing our neighborhoods. They are our children, our relatives, our friends and neighbors,” Moss said in a statement. “As long as we stand by and say nothing … we will continue to see 7-year-olds gunned down in our community.”
Amiere, along with his 12-year-old older brother and his mother, Shanna Castro, hail from the Allentown area of Pennsylvania and moved to Homestead in July 2014.
“They came from up north where it was cold. They came down here to the beautiful weather and fell in love with it,” said the boy’s uncle, Elijah Tobler.
Amiere was described as an obedient child who briefly played pee wee football and excelled in school. “Nothing less than As and Bs,” Tobler said.
The family knows the toll of gun violence. A cousin, Marcus Eggeleston, 20, was shot to death during an argument in July 2011 in Allentown. Another cousin, Mushir Cureton, 27, was shot to death in a shooting spree at a New Jersey bar on Christmas Day 2013.
“We’re in shock,” said Andre Cureton, 51, of Allentown, the boy’s great uncle. “As a family, we want answers. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people, but the access to guns is unbelievable. It’s really out of control.”
On Sunday, Castro, Amiere and his older brother were visiting a cousin in a home with manicured lawn, thick palm trees and now large bullet holes in the walls.
According to investigators, Duke and Trewin were among at least four men in a newer-model Dodge Ram at 3:25 p.m. on Sunday. Duke is believed to have opened fire with a high-powered rifle, scattering family members as bullets pierced the window. Amiere was killed as he played next to his brother.
The first-grader at Coral Reef Elementary was pronounced dead at the scene.
On Facebook, relatives took to mourning the tragedy, posting photos of the child. “I’m so at a loss for words, I’m so broken-hearted,” Castro’s aunt wrote.
As for Duke, he is facing a charge of second-degree murder, investigators say. He did not have a lengthy criminal history but had been in trouble recently.
Earlier this month, Duke completed one year of probation for third-degree grand theft, trespassing and improper exhibition of a firearm, according to Miami-Dade court records.
The former Killian High student was arrested for breaking into a South Miami-Dade home in January, stealing three caged reptiles — a blood-red corn snake, a bearded dragon and a veiled chameleon. He and another teen were arrested four days later while trying to sell the animals at Snakes at Sunset, a reptile store.
When Duke was arrested, Miami-Dade detectives found a handgun in his jacket pocket. He was arrested on charges of carrying a concealed weapon and pleaded guilty in May, records show. His Instagram account shows him with marijuana, a pitbull puppy and a snake.
Anyone with information can call Miami-Dade’s homicide bureau at 305-471-2400, or Miami-Dade CrimeStoppers at 305-471-TIPS.