Not even the safety of his mother’s arms could protect little Jaquail Mansaw when the bullets started flying.
The 7-month-old boy, nicknamed “Smoothie,” died early Monday after being wounded in a Sunday night drive-by shooting that targeted his family’s Kansas City, Kan., home.
Monday morning, after an all-night hospital vigil, a grieving and angry Balethia Washington stepped out of her bullet-riddled home to implore the community to help police catch the “coward” who killed her son.
“Somebody come forward,” she said. “Please. Please. For my baby.”
The killing marked at least the fifth time since October that a child in the Kansas City area had been shot in a drive-by shooting.
In the most recent case, police and neighbors said it was the second time someone fired shots into the house in the 2700 block of North Early Street. No one was injured in the first incident, which was reported in early December.
Washington said Monday that she had just returned home about 10:30 p.m. Sunday when multiple bullets pierced the house. She was holding Jaquail. He was struck. She was slightly wounded.
An ambulance rushed Jaquail to a hospital, but the damage to his small body was too great.
“He fought,” Jaquail’s grandmother Wenderlin Gardner said Monday. “He fought hard, but we lost him this morning.”
Washington, whose five other children were home at the time of the shooting, said she thought that whoever fired into the house saw her come home.
When asked whether she knew who would do something like that, she said: “A coward. That’s who would do this.”
Neighbors on the narrow street of small wood-frame houses a few blocks north of Quindaro Boulevard heard many gunshots.
One woman, who asked not to be identified because the shooter or shooters remained at large, said she was taking a bath when she heard “a bunch of shots.” She also heard a car “racing up the street.”
“It’s just sad,” she said. “I knew that baby. I held that baby.”
Another woman, who also did not want to be identified, said she heard the shots and yelled for her children to get down.
“It’s so tragic,” she said.
That woman said she had also heard the shots fired at the house in December.
Mark Holland, the mayor of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., expressed his condolences and said “any tragedy like this is one too many.”
“We are committed to working at every level with the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department to be sure the responsible parties are brought to justice,” he said.
Unified Government Commissioner Tarence Maddox called it the kind of “disgusting crime” that needs to stop.
Of the five area children shot since October in drive-by shootings, four have died, including three in Kansas City, Kan.
In October, 6-year-old Angel Hooper was shot to death outside a convenience store in south Kansas City. Two young men later were arrested and charged with murder.
Later that month, 10-year-old Machole Stewart was killed in the 1400 block of New Jersey Avenue in Kansas City, Kan., less than two miles from where Jaquail was shot. No arrests have been announced in that case.
Last month, 16-year-old Kahliff Hampton was killed in a drive-by shooting in the 800 block of North 70th Terrace in Kansas City, Kan. Also last month, a 4-year-old Kansas City boy was wounded in a shooting in the 300 block of Hardesty Avenue.
Washington and other family members described Jaquail as the kind of child who always seemed happy.
“He was a happy, sweet, loving baby,” Washington said. “He just got his first three teeth.”
Gardner, the baby’s grandmother, said, “He was one of the best.”
Kansas City, Kan., police did not release any details about suspects. The department’s major case unit was investigating and asked anyone with information to call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS (816-474-8477).
Jaquail’s family made the same request.
“This has got to stop,” Washington said.
The Star’s Robert A. Cronkleton contributed to this report.