DETROIT (AP) — Sporadic gunfire isn't an unusual sound in the Brewster Homes public housing complex in Detroit, but booming noises that shook Tenesha Higgins early Wednesday morning were way too close.
Numerous shots were fired at an apartment building, with one piercing a wall and hitting an 8-year-old boy who was sleeping. The child — who Higgins described as a "good boy" who loved playing baseball — died 45 minutes later.
"I haven't been to sleep. I don't feel safe at all. I didn't go to work today. I didn't want to leave my baby," Higgins told The Associated Press as she and other women huddled together hours after another night of violence in a city struggling mightily to reduce its crime rate.
The boy's name wasn't released by police, but The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press identified him as Jakari Pearson.
No arrests were made, but police were speaking with a "person of interest" in the case, Detroit Police Officer Adam Madera said.
The shots were "fired from the outside" about 1:15 a.m. Wednesday, Madera said. Jakari was struck once and rushed to Children's Hospital of Michigan, where he died. An autopsy is scheduled Thursday, according to Wayne County medical examiner's office spokeswoman Mary Mazur.
Jakari's slaying follows the July 1 shooting death of a 2-year-old girl in Inkster, southwest of Detroit. Police in that case have said KaMiya Gross was killed in front of her father as retaliation from an earlier shooting. Two men are charged in her death.
Neighbors and passers-by started a makeshift memorial of stuffed bears, dogs and other toy animals on the front porch of Jakari's home. Propped on the toys were handwritten cardboard signs that read: "CHILDREN ARE THE FUTURE!" ''GIVE OUR CHLDREN A CHANCE" and "UNITED WE STAND ... STOP THE VIOLENCE!!!!"
The Brewster Homes are two- and three-bedroom attached townhouses several miles northeast of downtown Detroit. Jakari and his mother lived in a corner unit, and he often was out in the yards and parking lot playing baseball with friends, neighbors said.
Higgins' unit is a few feet away from where Jakari lived, though in a separate building.
"I was just laying down to sleep," said Higgins, 30. "I heard the gunshots. It sounded like it was literally in front of the house. I waited, then I heard screaming and police sirens.
"I opened the door and the boy was laying in the street," she said, adding it appeared the mother's boyfriend was trying to rush him to the hospital.
Friends said Jakari was to enter the fourth grade at Spain Elementary this year.
"He was a good boy," Higgins said. Grief-stricken relatives of the boy declined to be interviewed Wednesday morning by the AP.
An officer was stationed late Wednesday morning on the back porch of the home to keep the curious from disturbing the area where the shots were fired. One slug tore through an upstairs window, while another appeared to cleanly pass through the exterior brick wall two feet beneath the window.
Detroit had seen 127 homicides from Jan. 1 through June 29, down from 159 over the same period in 2013, according to crime statistics posted on the police department's website.
Reducing crime and improving police response time to 911 calls are part of the city's restructuring efforts as Detroit heads into bankruptcy trials next month. Part of $1.4 billion that state-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr wants to set aside over 10 years for essential city services would be used to fight crime.
Higgins is fed up with the shootings, robberies and burglaries in her neighborhood.
"It can get very dangerous," she said of life in the townhome complex.