Three-year-old Elijah LaFrance stood in the doorway of the rental house while his parents cleaned up the front yard after a birthday party that featured kids joyfully frolicking in the pool.
It was just past 8 p.m. when gunmen armed with semiautomatic rifles rolled by and opened fire—unleashing more than 60 shots at the suburban Miami property.
“This was not just a drive-by,” Miami-Dade Homicide Maj. Jorge Aguiar told TV station Local 10. “It was an intended attack on people or someone that was at this residence.”
As the bullets tore through the air, Elijah was hit; his aunt found him, wounded. Officers alerted by ShotSpotter technology arrived on the scene, bundled the birthday boy into their car, and sped to the hospital, but he did not survive.
His death—the third fatal shooting of a child in a year—sent shock waves through the Miami area. Police vowed to find the killers, appealed for someone to break the street code of silence to call in a tip, and posted a $15,000 reward.
“This was despicable. This was careless,” Detective Kevin Thelwell said in a video released by Miami-Dade Police on Monday. “These were cowards to take the life of a 3-year-old child.
“I have two sons of my own,” he added. “I can’t imagine what the parents are going through at this time. It’s total devastation. And we are asking for the community’s help. I don’t care if you heard something in the street. I need somebody to call CrimeStoppers.”
On Instagram, friends of Elijah’s family shared photos of him doting on his baby sister, E’loni. His mother, a hairstylist, wrote on her website that Elijah was her pride. “I used to just thrive for success, but now I thrive for my son and the upcoming success the world has coming for me,” she wrote.
His uncle, Adrian Annestor, told WSNV that he was at the party, playing with Elijah before the shooting.
“I wish I could tell him goodbye,” he said. “That boy was so happy.”