ATLANTA — Investigators are looking at a possible gang tie in the slaying of a Georgia toddler and said Thursday that a bullet used in the shooting has been recovered.
More search warrants were executed Wednesday night, though Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering didn’t say specifically what evidence might have been found.
The chief did reveal Thursday that investigators have recovered the bullet they believe was fired in the killing of 13-month-old Antonio Santiago as his mother strolled him down a sidewalk on March 21 in Brunswick, a town on Georgia’s coast. The bullet and a .22-caliber handgun, which was found submerged in a pond 2 miles from the crime scene, are now being analyzed at a crime lab.
Two teenagers have been charged as adults with murder and other counts.
When asked directly whether it’s possible the shooting was a part of a gang initiation, Doering wouldn’t go that far, saying investigators are exploring “whether gang involvement is part of this.”
Police are concerned about the safety of witnesses in the emotionally charged case, the chief said. However, he pleaded with people who have information to come forward, and to put aside their fears in the interest of justice.
“We know there are still witnesses out there, people who have information,” Doering said.
An indictment returned this week accuses 17-year-old De’Marquise Elkins of shooting the toddler in the face.
Elkins’ attorney, Kevin Gough, has said his client is “absolutely, 1,000 percent not guilty.”
A second suspect, 15-year-old Dominique Lang, is also charged with murder, though prosecutors say they believe it was Elkins who shot the child and wounded his mother in an attempted robbery.
The police chief said attempted robbery charges also were filed but nothing was taken during the killing. It still appears the slaying was random, Brunswick police said.
The few details contained in the indictment seem to back up the story the slain baby’s mother, Sherry West, has repeated to numerous reporters: She was pushing her baby in a stroller when two youths approached asking for money. West says when she refused, the older teen drew a gun and shot her in the leg before shooting her son in the head.
District Attorney Jackie Johnson said she would not seek the death penalty against either suspect because Georgia law doesn’t allow capital punishment for defendants charged with crimes committed before they were 18. Elkins was also indicted on two counts in a second attempted robbery and shooting that happened 10 days before the baby was slain.
The suspect’s mother, Karimah Elkins, and older sister, Sabrina Elkins, were charged with evidence tampering. The indictment says they threw the revolver that police suspect was used in the shooting into a saltwater pond where investigators recovered it Tuesday.
Karimah Elkins and the suspect’s aunt, Katrina Elkins, were also charged with making false statements to police.