Boy, 4, shot in north Wichita; police think house was mistakenly targeted

06/14/2013 2:21 PM

08/06/2014 2:10 AM

Maria Aguilar noticed headlights turning into her drive as she dozed on her couch early Thursday morning.

Then five gunshots split the silence.

“All of a sudden I heard screaming and heard someone run by my window,” Aguilar said, speaking in Spanish.

Next she remembered seeing police cars flock to the adjacent apartment in the 200 block of East 20th Street and her neighbor’s young boy being rushed into the back of the ambulance.

Multiple shots pierced a bedroom window of the north Wichita fourplex, striking and critically injuring a 4-year-old boy Thursday morning as he slept inside next to his mother.

Police think the person who opened fire likely targeted the wrong house. As of Thursday evening, police were still seeking a suspect or suspects.

“Anytime a house is mistakenly targeted, which we believe it is in this case, and involves a 4-year-old, it’s a big deal for us,” said Wichita police Lt. Scott Heimerman, of the department’s gang unit. “We’re going to put a lot of effort into getting it solved.”

Heimerman said neighbors heard gunshots, but no one had reported seeing a gunman or vehicle in the area. Officers recovered no shell casings at the scene but found five bullet holes in the bedroom window.

He added that other apartments in the fourplex or a neighboring building could have been the intended target.

The boy was taken to Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis in critical condition and admitted into surgery shortly after the shooting happened about 2:45 a.m. at the corner of East 20th and Market. His mother received minor injuries from flying debris, according to a police report.

The boy’s condition was not immediately available Thursday night. Police have said his injuries were not expected to be life threatening.

Aguilar said the vehicle turned north off 20th Street into the fourplex’s drive, then drove around the building. She said she saw the headlights, then heard the gunshots.

By midafternoon, the only sign that gunshots had disturbed the sleepy neighborhood were four dime-sized bullet holes in the bedroom window’s glass.

A handful of children played outside nearby houses and buildings tagged with gang graffiti. Officers in an unmarked car stopped briefly to watch the fourplex. Few people answered their doors.

Neighbors say the boy and his mother lived in the apartment for about a year. The pair usually walked around the neighborhood, which residents say is usually quiet.

Mary Alcala, who lives south of the fourplex, said the boy was quiet but liked to pet her dog.

“This is the first thing that’s happened for a while,” Alcala said of the shooting, which has prompted her to consider selling her home.

“But at least once a month we hear gunshots.”

Consuelo Guzman, also a neighbor, nodded when asked whether she worries about safety now. Her 16-year-old son, Abraham, was nearly asleep Thursday morning when he heard five loud bangs. He didn’t know they were gunshots, he said, until he saw police.

“We don’t know what neighbors we live close to,” Consuelo Guzman said.

Police Chief Norman Williams asked for the public’s help on Thursday with any information that may lead to the arrest of those involved.

“This 4-year-old is in his bed with his mother, 2 o’clock in the morning, sleeping, and somebody has the audacity to walk up and fire into their home,” Williams said.

“We’ve had several of those situations where children have been shot in their homes because someone doesn’t have the courage to face somebody face-to-face,” Williams said, referencing at least two shooting cases that claimed children’s lives.

Miguel Angel Andrade Martinez, 13, was killed in 2010 after gunmen seeking vengeance on behalf of their brother blasted 10 shots through the boy’s front door. They had targeted the wrong house.

Last September, a stray bullet killed 8-year-old Kimbra Moore instantly as she slept. Police have said Zachary Gaston, 24, fired shots at a car fleeing in the 3000 block of South Broadway, riddling nearby mobile homes. He is charged with first-degree murder in her death and is scheduled for trial in August.

“To me that’s unacceptable as a father, a police officer,” Williams said of the shootings, “and it should be unacceptable as a citizen in this community.”

Anyone with information about the shooting can submit an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers at 316-267-2111 or by texting TIP217 and a message to CRIMES (274637). Tips can also be submitted online at Lt. Heimerman can be reached at 316-268-4298.

Contributing: Rick Plumlee of The Eagle

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