Crime & Courts

7-year-old killed at birthday party; woman fatally shot sitting on porch

Five killed in weekend shootings

CMPD Deputy Chief Jeff Estes responds after Labor Day weekend shootings leave 10 shot, five fatally. Police ask that anyone with information about the incidents call 704-432-TIPS and talk directly with a homicide unit detective.
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CMPD Deputy Chief Jeff Estes responds after Labor Day weekend shootings leave 10 shot, five fatally. Police ask that anyone with information about the incidents call 704-432-TIPS and talk directly with a homicide unit detective.

A 7-year-old boy was shot and killed during a birthday party this weekend and a 30-year-old woman was fatally shot while sitting on a porch five blocks away, prompting a heavy police presence in a quiet neighborhood in southwest Charlotte.

The shootings happened within hours of each other Saturday and Sunday during a particularly violent weekend in Charlotte. In all, 11 people were shot across the city, five fatally.

Investigators identified the dead child as Kevin Antonio Calderon Rodas He was killed during a child’s birthday party at a home on Fieldvale Place, a dead-end street off Nations Ford Road near Waddell Language Academy. Another child and two adults were injured in the aftermath of the shooting, but their injuries weren’t life-threatening.

As officers were investigating Kevin’s death, they heard several gunshots and rushed to a home five blocks away on Echodale Drive, just around the corner from the fatal shooting of Kevin. There they found Laquanta Franchez Young dying of gunshot wounds. A man sitting near Young was shot in the leg and is expected to survive.

No one has been arrested in the shootings, and police haven’t released a suspected motive. Police have also not said what connection the shootings have to each other, if any.

On Sunday, police cars were stationed on nearly every block between the two homes. The police helicopter flew overhead.

No one answered the door at the one-story brick home where Kevin – who was born in Mecklenburg County in 2008 – was killed. Neighbors said the family, which had at least two children under 10, had moved into the home about a week ago. Around sunset on Saturday, they began throwing a child’s birthday party, with chicken cooked on a charcoal grill, music and a piñata.

On Sunday, the home’s front yard remained mostly unchanged from when gunshots brought a tragic end to the party. Pieces of the broken piñata were scattered throughout the driveway, some of the spilled candy covered in blood. A car nearby had a shattered rear window and several bullet holes in the trunk. Bottles of beer, cups of juice and a plate of chicken lay near where police had marked bullets and shell casings.

Police who responded to 911 calls about the shooting were flagged down by adults holding a mortally wounded Kevin. He died at the hospital.

Officers at that scene were “absolutely heroic,” Deputy Chief Jeff Estes said.

After reports of a person with a high-powered rifle in the area, police “got out on foot and walked shoulder-to-shoulder down the streets to make sure there was no further violence,” he said.

As police collected evidence from that crime scene, Lizzie Burns was in bed trying to sleep at her home on Echodale Drive when she heard gunfire. She said her adult son, Gregory, was on the porch outside and was shot in the leg. Young, sitting near him, was fatally shot in what witnesses described as a drive-by.

“We don’t know what happened,” Lizzie Burns said. “It was senseless.”

Police said they didn’t have enough information to determine whether the shootings were connected, and that some of the witnesses they’d interviewed had been uncooperative.

Estes said investigators didn’t believe a gunman was shooting people indiscriminately in southwest Charlotte.

“I’d love to be able to put a suspect description out there,” he said. “We have nothing concrete.”

During a press conference early Sunday, Estes urged anyone with information about the killings to call police.

“It’s a sad state of affairs in this city and our country when a 7-year-old boy can’t be free to celebrate at a birthday party without being murdered,” he said. “If you know something about this crime and you don’t say something, we ask that you clear your conscience and let us know what you know so there will be no more senseless loss of life.

“If nothing else will compel you other than a 7-year-old boy being killed at a birthday party, I’m not for sure what will.”

Staff writers Rick Rothacker and Sergio Tovar and staff researcher Maria David contributed.

Cleve R. Wootson Jr.: 704-358-5046, @CleveWootson

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