Child found unresponsive at Westside day center has died

Family says 15-month-old Malik Baker died at hospital

By Allyson Henning - Reporter, Frank Powers - Assignment manager

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A 15-month-old boy hospitalized after he was found unresponsive Thursday at a Westside day care center has died, according to the toddler's mother.

Family identified the toddler as Malik Baker.  

"I just want to know what happened to my baby," Amber Lee, Malik's mother, told News4Jax on Friday. "I just want a little bit of closure because we just sat up in the hospital for hours and I held my baby’s hand while his heart stopped beating."

The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department confirmed there was a transport about 11:30 a.m. from Tip Top 24 Hour Learning Center on Blanding Boulevard, just south of San Juan Avenue, to Wolfson Children's Hospital. Medical privacy rules prevented firefighters from giving specifics about the patient.

According to a Jacksonville Sheriff's Office police report, officers sent to investigate just after noon Thursday were told the child was admitted in critical condition with major brain damage. There were six attempts to revive the toddler, but doctors didn't know if the boy would survive.

Lee told News4Jax on Friday that her son, Malik, had died. She and Malik's father, Earl Baker, said they are coping with an unthinkable loss.

"For us to give them permission to take our kid off life support, you know, that was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my whole life," Lee said. "We held his hand until heart stopped. And I sung his favorite lullaby and he was gone."

Lee said a day care worker told her she stepped out of the room for a minute and when she came back, the toddler was unresponsive. 

"You leave your kids at day care, thinking that they are going to be OK," Lee said. "She shouldn't have stepped out of the room for any amount of time."

Lee and Baker said they want justice for Malik and answers from the people who work at the day care center.

"I don't know how I'm going to tell my kids," Lee said. 

Photos of Malik Baker with his parents

Police are calling this a case of aggravated child abuse and the Florida Department of Children and Families is investigating.

"We are concerned ... and are trying to learn more about what happened," DCF spokesman John Harrell said.

State inspection reports show the center has been open since 2016 and is licensed with a capacity of 45 children. In recent inspections, the Department of Children and Families found several Class 2 violations, including insufficient staff, an unsafe physical environment and no credentialed director. DCF previously found 10 Class 3 violations, which involve paperwork and record-keeping.

VIDEO: Violations found at day care center during previous inspections, DCF says

When News4Jax first approached the day care on Thursday, a man who said he worked there denied any incident happening earlier that morning.

After getting confirmation from JFRD, News4Jax approached workers again. One woman shut the door before any questions could be asked and the man said he did not want to be interviewed.

On Friday, the gates of the learning center were closed and no one answered the door. Phone calls to the center were also not returned.

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