DANIA BEACH (CBSMiami/AP) — An 8-year-old boy was shot and killed while walking home from a birthday party in Dania Beach, authorities say.
Broward Sheriff's office said third grader Rasheed Cunningham Jr. was shot late Wednesday evening. His own birthday was a little more than a week away on January 9th.
The shooting was apparently part of some type of retaliation over another incident, reported CBS4's Silva Harapetian.
His family, including his grandmother who he lived with, were devastated at the scene Wednesday evening. She reportedly collapsed near the crime scene tape - remembering his last kiss and words to her.
"I didn't know that was the last kiss he was going to give me yesterday morning he said, 'grandma I love you,' she said.
It's heartbreaking for his family, who had just celebrated their granddaughter's birthday. A group of kids were walking home from the party when the shooting happened.
"There was a black car pull up stopped right here," explained Veronica Larkens, who was nearby. "But the individual had on a ski mask, so I couldn't see the actual face."
She went on, saying, "Somebody gets out of the car you can hear, 'pow, pow, pow, pow, pow,pow, pow,' then they jump back in the car, slam the door and went back in reverse."
"My grandkids get killed on my granddaughters birthday," said the little boy's grandfather Rodney Daughtry.
Brandon "Paco" Cunningham shielded most of the children, trying to save them, and jumped on top of his 8-year-old cousin.
"The guy that was over him trying to shield him, we had to move him out the way just to get to him," said neighbor Sonia Hills. "When me and my friend did get to him, I told her to start checking if he's alive"
Rasheed, also known as 'Lil foot' was shot and died in the hospital.
"Good football player, very smart in school, everybody loved him," said Daughtry.
His cousin Brandon was shot more than a half a dozen times and also taken to the hospital. Another woman was also hit. She too is in the hospital.
There was an emotional rally on Thursday in front of where the shooting took place.
A group of about three dozen people gathered to hold a vigil for Rasheed, as a memorial for him continued to grow.
Members of the community surrounded Rasheed's father, who is mourning the loss of his son.
They gathered in a circle to prayer to ask for healing for this community, but mostly they are asking for the community to come together to bring those responsible to justice.
Even though this vigil is over and was very short, people are still out here on the street consoling each other and talking about this horrific shooting that took this young boy's life.
They held another vigil late Thursday night and have another planned for Friday outside city hall.
This is the fourth shooting in the neighborhood since Christmas. Deputies believe that two of the previous incidents may be related to this one, said Veda Coleman-Wright with the Broward Sheriff's Office.
Rasheed's grandfather says he and the neighbors know who is responsible.
"They just killed one of our friends on Christmas and they named other people they were going to shoot," said his grandfather.
Twenty-five-year-old Christopher Jordan was killed on Christmas. His mother spoke to Harapetian but did not want to appear on camera.
"They know who they need to get. They needs to get them... now my little cousin, innocent baby just 8-years-old, he's dead," she said.
A reverend in the neighborhood spoke for the family and the community, angry at what's happened in this last week.
"And have to deal with a child, an 8-year-old child who was a scholar athlete being shot at the hands of treacherous murderers is uncalled for, is reprehensible and the community is angry but they are scared so we really need some serious attention in Dania Beach right now," said Rev. J.C. Howard with St. Ruth Baptist Church.
The Mayor of Dania Beach Tamara James issued a statement Thursday on the incident, which read, in part:
"On behalf of the City, the Broward Sheriff's Office and all of our staff, I would like to let you know that we are all extremely shocked by the latest events and are doing everything we can to put an end to it.
Our prayers go to the victims of the shootings. Our hearts and compassion extend to their families whose grief must be unbearable.
No words can express the sadness we all feel for their loss. The City of Dania Beach extends its deepest sympathies to the residents who have been victimized and to all who are angry, confused and scared during the holidays."
At last check, no arrests had been made. Investigators are asking anyone with information to come forward. In the meantime, they have a message for the community.
"The shooting needs to stop. A child is dead and our detectives have been working around the clock trying to put this together, trying to get information, evidence, sworn statements, what they need to make an arrest in these cases so what we need from the community is not to be in fear but to come forward with information," said Coleman-Wright.
Anyone with information can call Broward County Crime Stoppers at (954) 493-TIPS.
(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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