INDIANAPOLIS — A 1-year-old girl sleeping on a couch was killed Thursday when a social media feud erupted into a drive-by shooting, police said.
The toddler, Malaysia Robson, was rushed to Riley Hospital for Children in critical condition but died shortly afterward. The shooting outraged city leaders and community activists who have been working to stem the city’s gun deaths.
“We are confronted here with the worst form of such gun violence,” Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said at a press conference Thursday. “An innocent child was robbed of her dreams and a city was robbed of its future.”
Bryan Roach, chief of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, said detectives were pursuing multiple leads. One sergeant urged the shooter — or anyone who could identify them — to come forward.
“Somebody targeted this home,” Sgt. Chris Wilburn said. “You know who did that, and that’s who I’m talking to. And I’m asking you, very candidly, do what’s right.”
On Friday, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives offered a $5,000 reward to any person with information that leads to an arrest.
Late Thursday afternoon, Robin Robson, Malaysia’s grandmother, spoke at a rain-soaked prayer vigil, her voice wavering and breaking into sobs.
“She was only 1 year old,” Robson said. “She died a senseless death.”
Angry residents held up signs protesting the gun violence at the vigil. One of the signs declared “Enough is enough,” echoing the same motto chanted by Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students who survived last month’s massacre at the school and have been advocating for gun control ever since.
Last weekend, as other mass protests broke out across the country, hundreds of students rallied at the Indiana Statehouse in downtown Indianapolis calling for new gun laws to fight the tide of violence.
Rev. Charles Ellis, a community organizer in Indianapolis, said school shootings like the one in Parkland drew a great deal of attention. But he pointed out more kids, like Malaysia, are killed everyday in city streets.
“While suffering is suffering if you just go by pure numbers, we lose even more on the street,” he told the Indiana Daily Student.
On Friday, police wouldn’t comment further on the shooting. It’s still unknown what the nature of the social media dispute was that led to the drive-by shooting. It’s also unknown who inside the house was being targeted.
The shooting occurred just before 2 a.m. Thursday, police said, when a car stopped in front of the home in 3500 block of North Wittfield Street in east Indianapolis. Someone got out of the car and opened fire on the white one-story house. Malaysia was one of nine people inside. Ana Fox, 19, was shot in the shoulder but was taken to the hospital and was in good condition.
Stop the Violence Indianapolis founder Anthony Beverly, told the IDS that because the dispute took place over social media, police must have an idea of who some of the suspects might be. Stop the Violence Indianapolis works for social change through prevention and intervention.
“Nine people in the house yesterday, you can’t tell me somebody didn’t know that this thing was about to go down,” Beverly said. “Someone should have taken action to prevent it.”
These killings are all too common, said Ellis who works with the Ten Point Coalition, another anti-violence group in Indianapolis.
"We see this tragedy over and over again,” Ellis said.
On Friday, the house on Wittfield Street was quiet. Some of the windows shattered by bullets were boarded up. In the front yard, around the base of a tree, someone had placed a collection of stuffed animals. A few houses down the street, two young girls chased each other around their front yard.