PEORIA, Ill. (WEEK) — A four-year-old boy shot and killed Monday evening on Peoria’s South Side was caught in the middle of a targeted shooting.
Peoria Police Chief Loren Marion III said a car carrying four people, including Jeremiah Ward, 4, pulled up in at the Lincoln Terrace Apartments, 2825 W. Ann St., around 5:45 p.m. Someone began to fire on the vehicle moments later in what Marion said was a targeted shooting aimed at the driver of the vehicle, a 23-year-old man.
Marion said Ward got out of the vehicle, was starting to head towards the apartments, then began to head back when he was caught in the crossfire.
Peoria County Coroner Jamie Harwood said Ward was shot twice in the back and once in the arm. He died of massive internal bleeding at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center a short time later, Harwood said. Harwood said he believes the shots were fired from a distance.
Twenty-two rounds were detected in a ShotSpotter alert. Nineteen shell casings were found on the scene.
The 23-year-old driver of the vehicle was known to police, Marion said. He was shot in the leg and taken to the hospital. The child’s mother was also in the vehicle. Another passenger in the vehicle fled the scene and is wanted for questioning, Marion said.
The Peoria Police Department and Peoria Community Against Violence canvassed the neighborhood around Lincoln Terrace on Tuesday afternoon, but Marion said police are still in need of someone to come forward with more information.
“We believe that people with first-hand knowledge of the incident are withholding information, which is very frustrating,” Marion said. He was visibly emotional during a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
Peoria At-Large City Councilwoman Rita Ali took matters a step further, saying that people in Peoria need to be strong and come forward to help solve Ward’s murder.
“I’m asking our community to be strong and get justice for Jeremiah. We need justice for Jeremiah,” Ali said.
Ali said she understands concerns about retaliation against witnesses or people with information for talking to police first-hand, but said people need to be brave.
“His blood is on all of our hands if we don’t stand up, be strong, and get justice for Jeremiah,” she said.
Harwood said he spoke to Ward’s parents last night, and said his mother described him as a child who was always running up, hugging and kissing his mom, and telling her he loves her.
It is unclear if a shots fired incident in the 1900 block of N. Missouri about an hour later was connected to the shooting on W. Ann. Marion said four houses were struck by gunfire, and a rifle was found in a nearby alley on N. California, but no victims were found on scene.
A man shot in the torso was dropped off at an area hospital in a private vehicle a short time after, but he wouldn’t say if he was shot on Missouri, Marion said.
Anyone with information can call the Peoria Police Department at (309) 673-4521 or anonymously at Greater Peoria CrimeStoppers, (309) 673-9000.