HOUSTON — Houston Police Department Chief Art Acevedo sent a clear message Thursday to the suspects who "callously and cowardly" killed a 10-month-old boy in southwest Houston.
"We are not going to put up with this. Gangsters killing each other? Not good. But gangsters -- and these are going to end up being gangsters -- killing a 10-month-old boy being held by his father? That's outrageous, and I promise you, we are going to come after these people. Guarantee it," Acevedo said.
Investigators said the victim's 22-year-old father was walking with his son in the 5400 block of Braesvalley around 1:40 p.m. Wednesday when he was approached by three men. An argument ensued and one of the men pulled out a gun and began shooting.
At least one of the bullets struck Messiah, and the father -- clutching the baby -- ran through the parking lot of Nob Hill Apartments and flagged down a citizen, who took them to a nearby Valero gas station. Witnesses described the heartbreaking scene of the father trying to save his son.
"He's very nervous, he's crying, he's in shock. He say, 'my son, my son!'" Mari Hidalgo said. "The baby has no reaction, baby no have no moving, no cry, nothing."
Despite the efforts of police and the Houston Fire Department, the infant was pronounced dead at the scene.
[RAW: Witness describes moments after 10-month-old fatally shot]
A nearby resident described what he saw after the baby was shot.
"I heard the choppers going on and I ran outside to see what happened. I ran into the grandfather who said his grandson had got shot, and it was devastating to see. He just dropped to the ground and started crying," Jamail Shabazz said. "It's heartbreaking to see all this going on. It really is."
The child's aunt rushed to be with her family after receiving the devastating news.
"His dad was shot at while he was holding him I guess, I don't know, I wasn't here," Khaliyah Lewis said. "I just got the phone call and I just came running."
She and the boy's grandmother, Juwan Wilson, were trying to sort out the details of what happened, while mourning the sudden loss of their loved one.
"He was going to the store. Some new guys over here just been beefing with everybody for no reason, I don't know," Wilson said. "That's what I heard but everybody know the real but don't nobody want to speak. I leave it in God's hand, he's going to bring everything to justice."
[RAW: Grandmother and aunt speak about death of 10-month-old]
Lewis' sister is the child's mother.
"Right now she is in a state of shock. She don't know how to deal with this," Lewis said.
"I just ask that everybody pray for my family because we really need it right now," Wilson said.
Investigators are still searching for the men, who are believed to be in their 20s. Police said one of the men was wearing a red hat and shorts, and another was wearing a white t-shirt when the shooting happened.
Acevedo wants them to know, their time out on the streets is winding down.
"The Houston Police Department will not rest until we bring three cowards into custody," he said. "You know there are lines that you can not cross, and a line was crossed yesterday. I don't know about the rest of this community, but I can tell you we are angry here, and we're angry because there's no excuse in this day and age to cross this line."
Anyone with information in this case is urged to contact the HPD Homicide Division at 713-308-3600 or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS. Up to a $5,000 reward is being offered for tips leading to the arrest or identification of the suspects.
"We are going to get you, we are going to find you, and I know that there are good people living at the Nob Hill Apartments. Don't be afraid, come forward because this department is going to protect you and we are taking your complex back," Acevedo promised.
Fed up with crime, he says the department is on a mission to make the communities safer for everyone. He took part in a similar initiative when he served the citizens in Austin.
"We don't tell people what our plan is. I've dealt with complexes like this before where kids wouldn't come out. Where kids have to be hiding, where good families live in fear," Acevedo said. "Before this tragedy even happened, I was talking with my team that we are going to start identifying these kind of complexes where the majority of people are good, but they are held hostage in their own apartments by gang bangers, by thugs and it may take us months, weeks or years, but we are going to start taking these complexes back one at a time."
HPD confirmed Thursday that two men were being questioned in the shooting. The men were detained in the area, due to open warrants, but police stress the men are not suspects at this time.
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