Funeral today for toddler caught in gang shooting

Police on the scene at Coolidge Avenue Sunday

Friday update:

A toddler who, Syracuse police say, was the innocent victim of gun violence in the city will be laid to rest today.

Friends and family of 20-month-old Rashaad Walker Jr. will mourn his death and honor his short life later this morning. Calling hours will be held from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Peyton Temple in Syracuse. His funeral will follow. The little boy will be buried in Oakwood Cemetery.

It comes as his alleged killer, 21-year-old Saquan Evans is scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary hearing. Police say Evans is a member of the Bricktown Gang and was searching for someone from the rival 110 Gang to shoot on Sunday.

Police believe the toddler's father, Rashaad Walker was the target and that the little boy got caught in the middle of gang rivalry. Evans is charged with second degree murder in the boy's death.

Wednesday Update:

Funeral arrangements for a 20-month old shot and killed last weekend are now set.

Calling hours for Rashaad Walker Jr. are on Friday from 11am to 1pm with funeral services to follow at Peyton Temple. That's located at 1816 Midland Avenue in Syracuse. A burial will follow at Oakwood Cemetery.

Click here for the obituary.

A 21-year-old man is being held without bail in the shooting death of a 20-month-old toddler. Saquan Evans of South Salina Street in Syracuse is charged with second degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon. He was arraigned in Syracuse City Court Tuesday morning.

Earlier, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and Police Chief Frank Fowler held a news conference to announce the arrest in the death of Rashaad Walker, Jr.

Police say Evans is a member of the Bricktown Gang and was driving around Syracuse on Sunday looking for someone from the rival 110 Gang to shoot. Evans pulled up alongside a minivan on Coolidge Avenue carrying Walker, Jr. and four people, including his parents, and fired into the van. The toddler was hit by the gunfire and died.

Police say the toddler TMs father, Rashaad Walker, Sr., is a member of the 110 Gang and the likely target of Evans. Fowler mentioned that the Sunday shooting that killed Walker, Jr. was in retaliation for a Friday night shooting at the interchange of Interstates 81 and 690 that injured 19-year-old former Henninger High School star athlete Kihary Blue and one other person. Blue is currently listed in critical condition at Upstate University Hospital.

Fowler did stress, however, that Blue was not a gang member " but his shooting was gang-related. Police shut down the highway interchange Sunday while they combed the scene for evidence.

Both Fowler and Miner spoke of the increase in shootings " particularly gang-related shootings " in Syracuse over the past couple of years, and the need for the community to stand up and not tolerate such criminal behavior. Fowler said the community is entitled to know if an incident is, or is not, gang related " and is responsible for helping police solve these crimes and deter future shootings.

What we need is to have the community help us, and say that we are not going to tolerate this, and we are going to be part of the solution, we are not going to be part of the problem, said Miner.

Fowler echoed her sentiments.

How did we get to the point where today we are talking about the murder of an 18-month-old child? he said, raising his voice as he spoke of the recent spate of violence.

Fowler said that witnesses gave police information which led them to Evans.

Residents held a rally on Syracuse's near west side Monday night, near where Walker, Jr. was killed, in an effort to curb gun violence.

Fowler said Evans was on parole for another shooting that took in March of 2006. According to the State Department of Corrections database, he spent two and a half years in prison on a criminal possession of a weapon conviction, and was released in December 2009.

Fowler also said that a second Sunday shooting on Midland Avenue is related to the shooting that killed Walker, Jr. Police say the same vehicle, a rental car, was involved in both shootings, but Evans was no longer in the car at the time of the second shooting.

Police say they are also looking for a gray vehicle that may have been involved in the shootings. If anyone has any information they can call the Syracuse Police Department at 442-5222.

Evans is scheduled to return to court for a hearing on December 3.

7:00 a.m. Tuesday Update:

Syracuse Police are expected to say more this morning about the investigation into the death by gunfire of 20-month-old Rashaad Walker, Jr. The toddler was shot and killed Sunday afternoon while sitting in his car seat in a minivan. A news conference is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. at the Public Safety Building.

"These little kids, they don't have a choice in the matter. They didn't ask for this type of violence but this is the world we live in unfortunately. Hopefully, somewhere along the lines some of us can wake up and tell the next person how not to be so violent," said Raul Cita.

Dozens of people in Syracuse held a vigil tonight calling for an end to an increase in violence and shots fired in the city.

"It may get even worse before it gets better but as long as well all come together, we put our heads together. Change will happen eventually," said Jennifer Baxtron who organized the event.

"This is our community, this is our neighborhood and we have to come together somehow. The sad part is this is how we are doing it," said Fontaine Hayward.

A Facebook page has been set up in tribute to Rashad which sends love to his mother Kameka Alexander. The page has more than 2,500 fans.

Monday Update:

On Monday multiple Syracuse Police detectives were investigating leads or tracking down evidence from Sunday's shooting of 20-month-old Rashaad Walker. The young boy was sitting in a minivan when neighbors say multiple shots rang out on Coolidge Ave. on Syracuse's near west side.

One team of crime scene investigators was focused on another possible stray bullet in a house net door to the shooting scene. A man who lived inside said a playroom for his four young children was on the other side of the wall police were taking apart.

A great uncle of Rashaad Walker Jr. said it felt like his nephew's death wasn't real. Robert Walker said he came out of his house Sunday afternoon only to find out that his young nephew was the victim of a shooting.

"The baby was bleeding from his right eye and I found out later he was shot in the back of his head," said Robert Walker.

Robert Walker said he thinks the shooter was looking for the young boy's father.

A stuffed Winnie the Pooh bear marked the spot where young Rashaad Walker Jr. was hit on Sunday. Nearby, police technicians continued searching for evidence with rakes and a metal detector. Some neighbors said the death had badly shaken the close knit community.

"I almost started crying right there. It just touched my heart a lot. I know for a fact he didn't have anything to do with anything that was going on. So it just completely disturbed me," said Rahim Nellons.

One neighbor said he saw teenagers running from the scene just after the shots were fired and hoped someone would take responsibility for the tragedy those bullets brought.

Sgt. Tom Connellan from the Syracuse Police Department said investigators have made significant progress on the case.

Previous Coverage:

Syracuse police say a 20-month-old toddler has died after being shot Sunday afternoon on the city's south side.

Authorities say Rashaad Walker, Jr. was in his car seat in a minivan stopped on Coolidge Avenue around 4:30 p.m. Sunday when he was struck by at least one bullet from a barrage of shots.

Walker, Jr. died around 6:45 p.m. Sunday at Upstate University Hospital, less than three hours after police responded to the shooting.

With all of the recent shootings, Syracuse Police Sgt. Tom Connellan says an incident like this was bound to happen.

"With the amount of shots fired and all the shootings we've had, it was only a matter of time before something tragic like this happened," Connellan says. "People really need to start taking account for what's going on and what their children are up to."

Police say Walker was probably not targeted, but the shooting may have been retaliation for previous shootings. Walker's great uncle says the toddler's father, Rashaad Walker Sr., may have been the target of the gunfire.

Connellan says there were five shots fired calls on Sunday alone, and six people were shot in the past three days.

Connellan says police are making progress in their investigation and hope to have more information later today. Neighbors tell CNY Central's Alex Dunbar that teenagers were seen fleeing the area immediately after the shooting took place.

Original Story:

Syracuse police say a one and a half year old baby boy is in critical condition after being shot this afternoon.

Police say the baby was inside of a mini van on Coolidge Avenue around 4:00 p.m. when he was shot. Police say they do not know if the suspect was on foot or in a vehicle at the time of the shooting.

The baby is currently at University Hospital. Police Chief Frank Fowler is there as well.

We have a crew on the scene and will bring you updates as soon as they are made available.