A weekend of gunfire in Northwest Miami-Dade that left a pastor’s daughter in surgery, an 8-year-old girl on life support, claimed three lives and left four others with bullet wounds, ended Monday with family, elected leaders and community activists marching for an end to the gun violence.
Just like when 10-year-old Marlon Eason was struck down by a stray bullet in March 2015 and when 6-year-old King Carter lost his life to crossfire last February, church leaders and family members pushed for witnesses to come forward and demanded the shootings stop.
On Monday, community leaders, police brass and family members spoke in front of the home where Jada Page, 8, took a bullet to the back of her head and where her father, James Page, was shot in the chest. Then cops went door-to-door throughout the neighborhood with fliers that showed a picture of a Ford Fusion, the car believed used by the shooter.
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Page family neighbor Janet Hertilien broke into tears after being handed a flier. She said Page was a good father very much in love with a daughter who craved dance and adored the color pink.
“This one hurts. He was like my brother,” said Hertilien. “I just can’t believe someone would do this.”
The quickly called prayer vigil and march put together by community activist Tangela Sears — who lost a son to gun violence in 2015 — was attended by Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and other parents who had lost children to gunfire.
“To those cowards and to the parents who are hiding those cowards, your day will come,” Sears warned.
Santonio Carter, whose young son King was killed at an apartment complex not far from the Page home, attended the Monday vigil after spending time with Jada’s family at the trauma center at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
“It’s like a fresh, open wound,” Carter said. “We are living this again. I didn’t even want to walk in there.”
The shootings last weekend came in three bursts. The first was early Saturday during a memorial for a teen killed two weeks earlier. Six people were shot; two died. Then, early Sunday evening, a father and his young daughter were shot on their way to the movies. Finally, just before sunrise Monday, police found a man near a street corner in Miami Gardens with a fatal bullet wound.
Despite the strong show of support from the community and police on Monday, law enforcement seemed stymied and weren’t willing to share any possible motives. There wasn’t even a clear description of the vehicle used in the first shooting on Friday night.
Still, Miami-Dade police Director Juan Perez said he was activating task forces and calling in extra detectives in hope of solving the crimes.
The shootings began just past midnight Friday at a wake for a teen who was killed two weeks ago, police said, in a botched robbery — that he attempted.
As dozens of people were celebrating the life of Devonair “Deb” Blake, 19, many under an old white carport, a car pulled up in front of the single-story home in the 1900 block of Northwest 83rd Terrace. At least one person fired into the crowd with what is believed to be a semi-automatic rifle.
Witnesses said they heard dozens of blasts over the music being played by a DJ. Mourners, including family members, ducked and ran. When the car pulled away, six people had been shot, two were dead. Killed were James Isaiah “Zay” Solomon, 15, and 22-year-old family friend Tafari “Fari” Dorsett.
The four surviving victims are Vernisha Gillum, 21, daughter of a local pastor Vernon Gillum, Anthony Johnson, 26, Patrick Blake, 40, and Elwood Higgs, 36.
Devonair Blake was killed Aug. 19 while trying to rob Kellen Darnell Gaulden, 28, in Brownsville, police said. They believe Blake pulled a gun on Gaulden and swiped a chain from his neck before Gaulden reached for the gun and the two struggled.
Gaulden ended up with the gun, chased Blake down the street and shot him 13 times in the back, police said. Gaulden has been charged with second-degree murder.
Then on Sunday night, Jada, a fourth-grader at Sea Castle Elementary School in Miramar, was walking toward her front porch just a few feet from her play area when the Ford Fusion pulled up with at least two people in it. Shots were fired from inside the car, police said.
Jada was struck in the back of her head. Family members said doctors at Jackson Memorial have told them she’s brain dead and that her life support could be pulled by Tuesday. Also shot in the chest was Jada’s dad, James Page, 32. He is expected to survive. Page was in front of the home on a swale putting some items into a car, police said.
Father and daughter were on their way to the movies, according to an uncle. Police believe the bullets were intended for the child’s father. Jada’s mom cried out Monday on Instragram.
“I was hoping I woke up and all this was a dream,” wrote Dominique Brown. “I didn’t want to post this, but I don’t know what else to do. They say my baby brain dead and they taking her off the machines in the morning.”
She begged for a miracle: “Please find breath in my baby’s body. I need a miracle by tomorrow morning.”
Finally, Monday morning at sunrise, Miami Gardens police were called after someone spotted a body at Northwest 207th Street and 39th Avenue. Police said the man was in his 20s and died from a bullet wound. They didn’t release his name and asked for anyone with information to come forward.