BRUNSWICK, Ga. – The mother of a baby gunned down in his stroller says she has no doubt a teenage suspect is the man who killed her 13-month-old son, but family members say he wasn’t anywhere near the scene.
“That’s definitely him,” Sherry West said Saturday when she saw the jail mugshot of 17-year-old De’Marquise Elkins, who is charged as an adult with first-degree murder. Police also arrested a 14-year-old who has not been identified because he’s a minor.
“We’re trying to determine which one actually was the shooter,” police spokesman Todd Rhodes said Saturday.
But West said she was certain the gunman was the older suspect. “He killed my baby, and he shot me, too,” she said.
On Thursday morning, West was pushing Antonio Santiago in his stroller after a trip to the post office. She said a teen, accompanied by a smaller boy, asked her for money.
“And he kept asking, and I just said, ‘I don’t have it.’ And he said, ‘Do you want me to kill your baby?’ And I said, ‘No, don’t kill my baby!’” she said.
One of the teens fired four shots, then walked around to the stroller and shot the baby in the face.
Police announced the arrests of Elkins and the 14-year-old Friday afternoon. But Katrina Freeman, Elkins’ aunt, said Saturday that he couldn’t be the killer because the two were together at the time of the shooting.
Freeman said Elkins dropped by her home about 8:15 a.m. – roughly an hour before the shooting – and she cooked them grits, eggs and sausage for breakfast.
They stayed at her home until about 11 a.m., Freeman said, and then Elkins accompanied her and her children on some errands for about an hour. After noon, he left for classes he’s taking to earn his GED, she said.
“He was with us the whole time,” said Freeman, adding that she gave police the same account of her nephew’s whereabouts. “There is no doubt in my mind that he is innocent.”
Brunswick police have said little about what evidence led them to Elkins or the younger suspect. Police spokesman Todd Rhodes said Saturday that he’s not surprised Elkins’ aunt would try to protect him.
“That’s what she’s saying, but the evidence we’re looking at says something else,” Rhodes said. He would not elaborate. He said investigators still can’t say what motivated the shootings.
Elkins’ older sister said her brother had been living in Atlanta and returned to Brunswick only a few months ago. On Friday morning, as her brother made his way along the sidewalk to her home, police came to her door, she said.
“The police came pointing a Taser at him, telling him to get on the ground,” she said. “He said, ‘What are you getting me for? Can you tell me what I did?’”
On Saturday, police released recordings of three 911 calls made by West’s neighbors right after the shooting.
One caller, sobbing, tells the operator she heard three gunshots. The woman says she saw the mother lay the child on the ground to try to revive him with CPR.
“Yes, I heard the shots. Somebody shot this child,” the caller said. “She’s got him on the ground. Please, we need everything we can get.”
One caller solemnly tells an operator: “No, the baby’s not breathing.” He says the child was shot “right between the eyes.”
A woman can be heard screaming in the background just before police arrive and sirens drown out her cries.
No callers reported seeing the shootings, and police said the three calls were the only ones they knew of.
At her apartment Saturday, West had filled several bags with her son’s clothes and diapers to donate to charity. She said she hopes prosecutors pursue the death penalty in the case.
“My baby will never be back again,” West said, sobbing. “He took an innocent life. I want his life, too.”