OAKLAND -- When a 3-year-old boy was fatally wounded in a gang-related shooting three months ago in East Oakland, no one thought there could be a more devastating act of violence.
Monday night, in a liquor store parking lot in West Oakland, that notion proved tragically incorrect.
One-year-old Hiram Lawrence was in grave condition after he was shot in the head after the filming of a rap video. He was one of seven people wounded by gunfire. His father, who was holding the boy in his arms as he ran for cover, was one of the victims.
The distraught father, also named Hiram Lawrence, repeated, "My son got hit. My son got hit," according to witnesses.
On Tuesday, the child, whose second birthday is Dec. 28, clung to life at Children's Hospital Oakland with his father and other relatives keeping vigil. Police, city officials and clergy members called on the community to step up to help find the gunmen and to work to end the senseless violence that has brought fear and sorrow to neighborhoods across the city.
Calling the child's shooting a "heinous crime," interim police Chief Howard Jordan said Tuesday he was "outraged" and that such senseless violence "should not be tolerated by the community." Jordan visited the little boy in his hospital room and brought him a teddy bear.
The community, in turn, was shaken by the magnitude of the violence that seemed to erupt out of nowhere Monday evening.
The boy, his father and about 20 others were in a liquor store parking lot in the 700 block of Willow Street about 6:30 p.m. Monday where a rap video had just finished taping, police said.
A store surveillance video showed at least three gunmen wearing gray hooded sweatshirts firing on the group, and at least two people in the crowd, including one who was wounded, returning fire, police said.
Besides the little boy, a 24-year-old woman and a man were also in critical condition while the other victims' injuries, including the boy's father who was shot in the thumb, were described as not being life-threatening.
Jordan told reporters that some "persons of interest" have been identified, but would not give additional details. No arrests have been made.
Sgt. Randy Wingate said the investigation has been somewhat stymied because some of the victims "are not as cooperative as we would like them to be."
Even though police said at the news conference no motive for the shooting has been established, law enforcement sources said they cannot rule out the possibility the shooting is related to a long-standing violent dispute between two West Oakland gangs in the area. To prevent acts of retaliation, police Tuesday night significantly increased their presence in the gang areas.
Mayor Jean Quan also spoke at the briefing, saying "probably the saddest job I have as mayor" is talking to relatives of young people shot in the city.
She recalled talking with the father of Carlos "Carlito" Nava, a 3-year-old boy fatally shot Aug. 8 in the 6400 block of International Boulevard, the innocent victim of a gang-related shooting that wounded two intended targets.
Quan said community outrage over that shooting helped lead to the arrest of two suspects. She urged the community to step forward again.
"We can't allow children to be senseless victims of senseless violence. We can do something about it. It's a cycle we can end, a cycle we must end. Let's not let that code of silence continue. Help us end these senseless and cowardly acts."
Councilwoman Nancy Nadel (Downtown-West Oakland), who represents the area of the shooting, said the "power of violence is so thwarted and wrong and is continually growing in low-income communities. We have to change that. The trend toward senseless violence is out of control and it cannot go on any longer."
Speaking on behalf of the 70-church Pastors of Oakland was the group's first vice president, Pastor Gerald Agee of the Friendship Christian Center.
Agee said he was "tired of preaching eulogies" at homicide victims' funerals and wants only to "preach at marriages."
"The taking of a life is wrong, especially a baby's," he said. "We as a community have to do something to stop this. Let us as a community say enough is enough."
Police said an Oakland rapper who goes by the name of Kafani was at the scene of the shooting in the 700 block of Willow Street, in the parking lot of a liquor store where dozens of people had gathered.
However, Kafani said Tuesday morning that he was not at the scene.
"I was not shot and was not at video! My cousin and his son was shot and he does music with me. A promo van that promotes my music was there," Kafani said, responding by email to an inquiry from the Bay Area News Group.
Police said there may have been an argument shortly before the shooting.
Larry White, who lives across the street from the liquor store, described the scene as chaotic. He had just walked inside the door of his apartment building when he heard the shots and took cover behind the elevator. Once the shooting stopped, he said, he looked outside and saw a man screaming, holding a small child who was taken away in a black SUV.
In a biography posted on his personal website, Kafani.com, Kafani describes himself as a budding music mogul. In the bio, Kafani says, "I'm not trying to glorify shooting and killing. I'm rapping about the good life and letting my fans know there is a way out. I'm not trying to sound like anyone else. I'm just Kafani."
A vigil for the little boy is planned Wednesday evening. No time was announced.
Up to $35,000 in reward money is being offered for information leading to the arrest of suspects in the shooting.
Police are asking anyone with information to call a special tip line at 510-773-2805.
Staff writers Angela Woodall, Robert Salonga, Paul Burgarino and Jim Harrington contributed to this report.