Brownsville Family Torn Apart by Toddler’s Murder
NEW YORK—Intense grief and shock surged through a close-knit Brooklyn neighborhood where a 16-month-old toddler was shot and killed Sunday evening.
Early reports had suggested the target was the child’s father, Anthony Hennis, 21, who has a history of more than 20 arrests in Pennsylvania and New York for narcotics, possessing weapons, car theft, and assault.
The New York Police Department (NYPD) would not comment on whether the shooting was payback for something the father had done.
But Community Advocate Tony Herbert said the neighborhood was “heavy with Crips.”
Speaking near the scene of the shooting after a press conference attended by mayoral candidate Bill Thompson on Monday, Herbert said they were hoping someone would be arrested later in the day.
The shooting was not far from the Rockaway Avenue subway station on the No. 3 line in Brownsville, Brooklyn.
Witnesses said neighborhood children had been playing in the courtyard of an apartment complex near the Livonia Avenue and Bristol Street intersection, when four shots were heard just after 7 p.m.
Anthony Hennis had been crossing the road with his son Antiq in a stroller when the child was shot in the head.
The child was rushed to Brookdale Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
“At first we thought it was firecrackers,” said Nereida DeValle, 25, the father’s cousin. She was in the courtyard of her apartment complex on Bristol Street when the shots were fired.
She saw Hennis running into the courtyard with the baby in the stroller. Witnesses heard him yelling, “My baby got shot, my baby got shot.”
Hennis’s aunt, Cheryl Steele said she saw Antiq had “actually moved in the stroller.” She said she had a chance to kiss the toddler before he died.
Bishop Willie Billips, from the Church of Faith, Hope, and Charity, said he drove the baby’s mother to the hospital. “To have to take a young couple to identify a young baby’s body is horrible,” he said.
After the press briefing near the scene of the shooting, the Community Advocate Tony Herbert led media to the home of the baby’s mother, Cherise “Mona” Miller, who lives in a basement apartment on Rockaway Avenue. She did not comment except for briefly thanking the media for their support.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said that four .45 caliber shell casings were found near the intersection, and the stroller had four bullet holes in it, probably two entrance and two exit holes. Kelly was speaking at the 46th Annual West Indian-American Day Parade Monday.
DeValle said some neighbors saw the shooter fleeing on foot. She also said her cousin was not affiliated with any gangs.
Kelly said that the leads investigators have “are being aggressively followed.”
Also speaking at the parade, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it was likely that the guns the perpetrators used were illegally possessed and originally purchased in a different state.
“The constant flow of illegal guns into our city and into the hands of criminals happens for one reason and one reason alone: it’s caused by broken federal gun laws that Washington refuses to fix and broken gun laws in many states, which allow weapons to easily pass into the hands of criminals,” Bloomberg said.
Candidate for Brooklyn borough president, state Sen. Eric Adams said the public should recognize that the target of the shooting was Antiq’s father, Anthony Hennis, who had a criminal history.
“And we really have to have a conversation about how many of the adults are putting our children in harms way,” Adams said, at the parade Monday.
Juan Rodriguez, 75th Precinct community council president called on the offender to turn himself in. Speaking at a press conference with Thompson at the site where the toddler was shot he said, “We don’t shoot babies in our community.”