HOUSTON -- A 24-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the death of Messiah Marshall, a 10-month-old boy who was shot while being held in his father's arms.
Jared Alexander Balogun, 24, has been charged with capital murder.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, investigators with the Houston Police Department and other city officials spoke about the arrest at a press conference Tuesday.
"It's never a good time when a child is killed in our city or in any city. If affects the city and the whole community. Our hearts go out to Aaliyah Scott, the mother, and Nigel, the father of 10-month-old Messiah Marshall," Turner said. "We have some good news to report in reference to the death of the toddler. Because HPD worked around the clock on this case, they were able to apprehend one of the suspects, if not more than one."
Investigators said on June 14, Messiah's 22-year-old father was walking with him in the 5400 block of Braesvalley around 1:40 p.m. 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.
The death sent shock waves through the community.
Immediately after the shooting, Houston Police Department Chief Art Acevedo sent a clear message to the suspects whom he said "callously and cowardly" killed the innocent baby boy.
"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.
Police said even though Balogun has been charged, the case is far from being closed.
"This is an ongoing investigation but we made a commitment to you last week that we would be transparent in this investigation and as we can provide information to you, we will do that," said HPD Executive Asst. Chief M.D. Slinkard. "It has not changed that we are still actively pursuing three suspects in this case, one of which is in custody."
Slinkard said two suspects were arrested Monday on warrants for aggravated assault related to a separate incident that occurred nine days before Messiah was killed, but at the same location.
Warrants were served by HPD Homicide investigators, HPD officers at the Southwest Tactical Unit and the Westside Gang Unit, along with agents from the Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force.
"While in custody for those aggravated assault charges, the two suspects were interviewed by our HPD Homicide investigators," Slinkard explained. "During those interviews, one of those suspects in custody for that previous aggravated assault charge did admit to his involvement in the shooting incident and was also identified by the father as a shooter in the incident resulting in the death of baby Messiah. That suspect is Jared Balogun."
Balogun has prior arrests for possession of marijuana in 2013, delivery of marijuana in 2012 and burglary of a habitation in 2010.
Police are standing by Acevedo's previous suspicion that the shooting was gang-related.
"We do believe that this might have been a retaliation incident for a previous altercation," Slinkard said. "The father positively identified the shooter and whether or not he had prior knowledge of them or a relationship with them is part of the investigation."
Slinkard said the main priority of the department is to make sure that the case is handled correctly, not quickly.
"Only as fast as we can do it accurately and make sure we get justice for baby Messiah," he said.
Turner ended the news conference with a stern warning for criminals.
"Let it be very, very clear. When there is a kid or child murdered in this city, we are going to extend every and all available resources in order to find these people and bring them to justice. This is especially true when it involves kids in our city. That is something we are simply not going to tolerate," Turner said. "Let everyone be forewarned; no murder is acceptable, but when children are at stake, every single dollar that we have available, we are going to put it in the hands of law enforcement to apprehend these people and bring them quickly to justice."
Anyone with information on the identities and whereabouts of any other suspect in this case is urged to contact the HPD Homicide Division at 713-308-3600 or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.