$10,000 for tips in fatal freeway shooting of 3-year-old
Southfield — Through tears, 16-year-old Tatayana Clark recalled how her slain 3-year-old brother "liked to say his ABCs and liked French fries."
"He was such a sweet child," she said before breaking down crying during a press conference Monday at Crime Stoppers of Michigan's Southfield offices. Through her sobs, the teen implored the public to tell police who killed her little brother.
A reward of up to $10,000 is being offered for tips leading to an arrest in the shooting Thursday night of Christian "C.J." Miller on the northbound Southfield Freeway in Detroit, officials said.
The boy was in his car seat in his godmother's vehicle on the freeway near Joy Road on the city's west side when he was struck by a bullet between the shoulder blades at 7:02 p.m. He was on his way to see Sesame Street Live, his relatives said.
Christian died the next morning at Children's Hospital.
"I'm still shaking," C.J.'s mother, Tomika Whitley, said Monday. "He was just so full of life .. you would have loved him."
Whitley said she had just spoken to her son's godmother Thursday and asked her to call her back in a few minutes so she could discuss the Sesame Street show.
"She called me back crying," Whitley said. "It wasn't the callback I expected. She said 'you need to leave your job; Christian has been shot.' It happened that quick. What if I would've been on the phone with her when he got shot?"
Michigan State Police Lt. Michael Shaw said police are looking for a 2014-16 silver Mercedes sedan. "The driver was described as a light-skinned male with a full beard," Shaw said.
"We know there were other people on the freeway who saw (the shooting)," Shaw said. "If you saw something ... no matter how trivial you think it is, please call us so we can bring this killer to justice."
Shaw said the shooter pulled his car up next to the vehicle in which the victim was riding and fired a single round. The driver of the victim's vehicle, who was not injured, pulled off the Plymouth Road exit and into a gas station, where a relative called 911, police said.
The driver's 3-year-old son was also in the car when the shooting occurred. "He's only 3, so he probably doesn't even know what happened," Whitley said.
Richard Miller, Christian's father, said he couldn't make sense of the tragedy.
"To just shoot into a car ... who does that? What kind of animal are you?" he said, imploring the shooter's friends and family: "Do not hide him. He took my son's life and now it's time for justice."
Detroit police chief James Craig, whose department is working with state police on the investigation, added: "What a tragedy. When we think about all the work we do to keep this city safe, a 3-year-old being killed is just unacceptable. We're standing here in unison, because we need your help, so we can start the healing process."
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan called child murders "the worst part of my job. Every loss of life is tragic, but to lose a 3-year old boy, it tears at your heart ... every place I've been since Thursday, people are asking what's happening with this investigation."
Shaw said police have received between 35 and 40 tips. "We're looking at every (possible scenario)," he said. "We're looking at road rage; we're looking at a random act; we're looking at targeting."
Crime Stoppers' usual reward for tips leading to homicide arrests is up to $2,500, but officials said donations from the public bumped the reward to as much as $10,000.
"I wouldn't want my worst enemy to go through this," Miller said. "Too many people out here just don't care. Life means nothing to them. But (Christian's) life meant everything to me."
Miller had a message for whoever killed his son: "Nobody wants to be around you. You're a murderer. You're not cool."
Anyone with Information is asked to contact (855) MICH-TIP or CRIME STOPPERS at 1-800-SPEAK-UP.