NORTHEAST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - Police said a shooting in front of a Northeast Miami-Dade home that claimed the life of a 3-year-old boy at his own birthday party was a planned attack, as authorities and family increased the reward in the case to $25,000 and outraged community leaders came together to plead for the public’s help.
Police officers and community activists addressed the tragedy at a news conference held on Monday afternoon.
“What happened here Saturday night was a vicious attack, a vicious attack on a children’s party,” said Miami-Dade Police Maj. Jorge Aguiar.
According to investigators, at around 8:15 p.m., the family of the victim, Elijah LaFrance, was cleaning up the front yard of the home they had rented for the party, in the area of North Miami Avenue and Northeast 158th Street.
As the toddler stood in the front doorway, detectives said, multiple people showed up carrying a variety of semi-automatic weapons, including rifles.
Police said there was some sort of argument in front of the property, and shots were fired, striking LaFrance and a 21-year-old woman. Video taken by police show multiple bullet holes in the wall near the front doorway.
The toddler was taken to the hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. He was a few days shy of his fourth birthday. The woman suffered injuries that were not life-threatening.
Tangela Sears, who lost her son to gun violence, said enough is enough.
“Stop killing each other! I’m tired of this!” she said.
Community activist Crystal Foster underscored the severity of the current situation.
“The caskets are getting smaller and smaller, so we are asking, we are asking and demanding, for everyone — from the government to the politicians to the leaders and to the parents — if anyone knows anything, say something,” she said.
LaFrance’s heartbroken family, meanwhile, continues to grapple with the sudden loss.
“What you did is not fair. You took someone’s life, you took a special kid, on his day. You took his life,” said his cousin, Adrian Annestor. “The kids don’t deserve to get killed like that.”
Detectives found more than 60 casings at the home. On Tuesday, investigators returned to the area to search for more evidence and surveillance video from that night.
7News cameras captured the front fence of the home peppered with bullet marks.
“I wish I could tell him goodbye. Oh, God,” said Annestor, as he wiped away tears.
Miami-Dade Police announced that the department has approved an additional contribution of $5,000 to the reward in the case.
Police also said the Florida Sheriff’s Association donated $5,000 to the reward.
Those two donations, in addition to the Crime Stoppers payout of $5,000 through their number, raised the reward to $15,000 on Monday.
The following day, Annestor said he will personally add $10,000 to the reward, bringing the total to $25,000.
Police continue to look for those behind the shooting. Detectives said they need the community’s help.
“No one understands the pain — a mother’s pain, a father’s pain — until it happens to you,” said Foster.
“We’re still dealing with a lot of pain, a lot of pain, especially the mom, she’s suffering a lot,” said Annestor. “Violence is not going to solve any problem.”
“There’s a grandmother out there, there’s an aunt, there’s a family member, there’s a friend out there that knows what happened here,” said Aguiar. “Please, call those tips in  471-TIPS. It shouldn’t be about the money. It should be about doing the right thing and about looking in your heart and saying, ‘Hey, this was a vicious attack on a 3-year-old kid that had nothing to do with anyone.'”
If you have any information on this shooting, call Miami-Dade Police or Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS. Remember, you can always remain anonymous, and you may be eligible for the $25,000 reward.
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