JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Police in Jacksonville are trying to stop gang violence, one arrest at a time.
They said they made progress this week when they charged 16-year-old Henry Hayes IV in the drive-by shooting death of 22-month-old Aiden McClendon.
Police said the toddler got caught in the middle of a gang feud,. He was shot while sitting in a car with his mother and grandmother parked in front of a house on Spearing Street on Jan. 29.
They said a white car came by and two gunmen inside sprayed bullets, leaving Aiden critically injured. He died at the hospital.
Police said the intended target of the shooting was Aiden's 19-year-old cousin, Reginald Williams, who's in a rival gang.
"Investigators believe the shooting was part of an ongoing dispute between members of Out East and another criminal street gang known as Problem Child Entertainment. This is the result of rap video taunts posted on the Internet,” Sheriff Mike Williams said Thursday.
Detectives recovered the car and one of the guns involved in the deadly shooting and connected Hayes to the drive-by through forensic evidence and witness accounts, police said.
Hayes was in court for his first appearance Friday, and was ordered held without bond.
He is charged with first-degree murder, two counts of attempted murder, discharging a firearm in public from a vehicle within 1,000 feet of any person, shooting into an occupied vehicle and possession of a weapon by a delinquent.
Hayes' arraignment is set for March 31.
Chris Robinson, a former gang unit detective for the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, said the city's gang problems have gotten worse and social media is amplifying them.
“They've really taken on the attributes that we have seen in larger cities like LA and Chicago,” Robinson said. “The consequences are jail or a tombstone.”
Robinson said gang members keep getting younger and leaders are trying to entice children to join by giving them a way to make a lot of cash.
“They have the money. They have the women. They have the cars. Some of them even have houses, so they see that as a viable option,” Robinson said.
Authorities said there are a number of programs children can joined that aim to keep them out of trouble. Those include the Police Athletic League and Project SOS.
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