OAKLAND -- The dead boy's mother sat on her front porch sobbing, gasping for breath and unable to speak. The father of the 3-year-old needed the help of four men to get up the stairs into his house.
The couple and their three children, who relatives said have lived in the house on Havenscourt Boulevard for just weeks, were a few blocks away shopping in the 6400 block of International Boulevard about 1:15 p.m. Monday when someone drove by and sprayed at least 15 bullets at two men on the street. The couple's son, identified by relatives as Carlos Fernandez Nava, in a blue and red stroller shaped like a car, was hit in the neck. He later died at Children's Hospital Oakland, police said. The two men sustained minor injuries.
"I'm a little off-balance right now," said Chief of Police Anthony Batts after he came from talking to the family at the hospital. "I just went up to give our condolences to the family of this 3 -year-old boy and, quite frankly, I'm tired of the violence that takes children in this community. You don't know how tough it is to tell a parent their child has been killed."
Police have not made any arrests and do not have firm motive in the case, though Batts said the shooting stemmed from an ongoing feud between two parties in the community. He declined to say if it was gang-related.
The two men who were walking ahead of the boy and his family have not been identified. Police said they are 37 and 27 years old.
Police issued a citywide "tactical alert," and held several officers over from the day shift while others blanketed the neighborhood searching for the car involved in the shooting, Batts said. The car was traveling east on International Boulevard at the time of the drive-by, police said.
Batts said finding the killer or killers was a top priority.
"Budget concerns are not my concern right now. Stopping the violence is my concern right now," he said, adding that extra patrols would be in the area through Friday.
Two people in the area, who declined to be identified, said they heard gunshots, saw people running and then saw at least two bystanders come to the child's aid.
One bystander said she saw a woman holding the child's hand while an employee of a nearby store was holding the child, telling him, "Don't close your eyes, don't close your eyes. Don't go to sleep."
A crowd gathered and once people realized that a small child had been shot, they reacted angrily. There was yelling and screaming, and one woman shouted, "This is just craziness. This was a baby."
The boy is the youngest victim slain in a street shooting in Oakland in recent history, but county prosecutor Richard Moore said children have been the accidental victims of the city's violence far too often.
"It's not something you see every day, but it happens way too often," said Moore, who heads the felony trial team for the Alameda County District Attorney's office. "One is too many ... It's a reflection of the senseless gun violence we see out there. And to have it happen right in the middle of the day? That's just horrific."
The boy wasn't even the first child shot on that block in recent memory. In April 2009, a 1-year-old named Prosperity Banks was hospitalized along with a 4-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy after they were all hit by stray gunfire in another daytime shooting. All three children survived.
More recently, a 6-year-old girl was shot in September as she slept in her home in the 1600 block of Seminary Avenue around 2 a.m. She also survived, after surgeons removed the bullet that had gone through her arm and lodged in her chest.
International Boulevard was closed in both directions between 64th and 66th avenues as police continued their investigation Monday afternoon.
Several businesses, including the All-Mart store, were open at the time of the shooting. A man who answered the phone at the store but did not give his name declined to comment or confirm the shooting.
"We don't have any comments. I can't talk about that. Goodbye," the man said.
Staff writer Sean Maher contributed to this report.