16-year-old charged in toddler's killing

Sheriff says drive-by shooters targeted rival gang member

By Scott Johnson - Reporter, Frank Powers - Assignment manager

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A 16-year-old boy charged with murder in the gang-related drive-by shooting death of a 22-month-old boy on Jacksonville's Eastside in January was ordered held without bond Friday.

Henry Hayes is also facing two counts of attempted murder and other charges in the Jan. 29 shooting, which killed toddler Aiden McClendon.

Hayes' arraignment is set for March 31. A public defender was not appointed for Hayes, because his family is trying to get him a private attorney.

His family was at his first appearance Friday and said he's innocent. One relative yelled to Hayes, "I love you, babe."

Police said Aiden was sitting in a car with his mother and grandmother parked in front of a house on Spearing Street when a white car came by and two gunmen inside sprayed bullets, leaving Aiden critically injured. He died at the hospital.

Sheriff Mike Williams said Thursday that dozens of tips through Crime Stoppers and other sources helped police to identify one of the shooters as Hayes.

“We got a lot of information from the community in a variety of ways. We would ask the community for their continued support in this," Williams said.

Aiden's family members said Thursday they forgive the accused shooter, but Aiden's mother said his death has ruined her life, and even the simplest tasks bring her grief to the surface. She said she can't buy milk anymore because Aiden loved milk, and she struggles to use her cellphone because he liked to play with it.

“I think about him in everything I do,” Tomesha Brown said. “It’s changed us a lot.”

Williams said Thursday he anticipates more arrests in Aiden's killing. The boy's relatives said they are praying and believing that the other shooter will be arrested. They said they'll accept whatever the State Attorney's Office recommends as a sentence for Hayes.

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office booking photo of Henry Hayes

But Aiden's 8-year-old brother, Xavier Glenn, wants a lengthy sentence.

“He deserves whatever he gets because he killed my brother, so he needs to go to jail,” Xavier said. “Sentence him to life, everything.”

Police said the shooters' intended target was Aiden's 19-year-old cousin, Reginald Williams, who was in the front yard of the Spearing Street home when the shots were fired. They said the shooting stemmed from an ongoing dispute between two street gangs.

Williams said rap-video taunts and other tension building between the two gangs -- Problem Child Entertainment and Out East -- boiled over into the shooting.

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said the gang-related rap videos show up online on sites like YouTube and often lead to violence.

“They said some of the violence stemmed from those videos. They'll go back and forth with each other, committing acts of violence against each other, so they can go back and make a new video and brag on the results of their violence, and it continues to go back and forth,” Smith said.

Smith said police will try to determine what types of gangs were involved in the shooting. He said some are organized with a hierarchy and leadership and others are not and just commit random acts of crime or violence. He said the organized gangs are easier to infiltrate and break up.

“The more traditional gangs have a hierarchy, so you can actually approach them and deal with the top person and then his orders follow down to the rest of the gang, if you can get them to go along with you,” Smith said.

Williams said the additional $500,000 City Council approved last week for police overtime has helped the Sheriff's Office combat the gangs.

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office booking photo of D’Angelo Wilson

Williams also confirmed the Feb. 4 arrest of D'Angelo Wilson on an accessory to murder charge related to the case that News4Jax and other media outlets had previously reported.

“It does ramp the emotion up when it’s a 22-month-old, a baby, a child who's shot in his driveway of his house," Williams said. "It stirs the emotion, but we have to control that and we have to be professional and we have to dig in to these cases and make sure we do a good job of investigating and not letting the emotions take over.”

The vehicle used in the crime and one gun were recovered. Investigators were able to get an arrest warrant for Hayes based on witness identification and forensic evidence.

Hayes was already in juvenile custody on another charge. He has now been transported to the Duval County Jail and 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. He was being held without bail and will be prosecuted as an adult.

“None of the people firing these guns are good enough shots to be able to control where those bullets go, and that's why we have a dead 22-month-old, and that's why this community needs to understand that firing guns in the vicinity of or in the direction of human beings will not be tolerated in the 4th Judicial Circuit," State Attorney Angela Corey said.

Police are still looking for tips related to the drive-by shooting. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS.

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