Amy Kinard at first believed her baby with big brown eyes had survived the shooting.
The gunshots that exploded through the back windshield of her car Wednesday night had finally stopped. But the back seat, where her infant was strapped into a car seat next to his father, was silent.
She pulled over at the foot of the Crescent City Connection. Her boyfriend’s lifeless body, hit four times, was slumped over his son, as if he’d tried to save him.
Seven-month-old Deshawn Kinard was breathing, he had a pulse, and she saw no blood.
She thought maybe he was just sleeping.
But it was cold and he wore a knit cap. In it, Amy Kinard would soon find the hole left when a bullet smashed through his tiny head.
Her baby died a short time later at the hospital. He became the second infant this fall to die in the crossfire of the city’s ceaseless street violence.
New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas said Thursday that the baby’s father, Deshawn Butler, 25, was a member of an Algiers gang called the Fischer Fools, named for their stomping grounds at the old Fischer housing complex.
The group was at war with another gang called the Hot Block, Serpas said.
Both Butler’s West Bank gang and its rival are among the 39 street gangs police say are responsible for a disproportionate amount of the city’s bloodshed.
Serpas said Thursday that he intends to find each and every member of both groups, haul them in and interrogate them until police find the shooters.
“Every law enforcement and prosecutorial agency in this part of the state is focused on one thing, and that is bringing justice to whoever is responsible for the death of this 7-month-old and his father,” he said.
Tips were already coming in, he said, and police were piecing together the details of the shooting.
Amy Kinard, with another woman beside her in the passenger seat and her baby sleeping in the back, had picked up Butler at the housing development a little before 9 p.m.
She was driving along General de Gaulle Drive near the Crescent City Connection when Butler suddenly shouted from the back seat. A dark-colored SUV was tailing them, driving erratically and approaching quickly, she said.
She blew through a red light and headed for the bridge.
As she passed beneath the West Bank Expressway underpass, she heard one gunshot.
Her back windshield exploded.
More shots came quickly, one right after another, along the side of her car.
She screamed. She asked if her baby was OK, but there was no response from the back seat.
“Big D never said anything else,” she said. “I asked if the baby was all right, but he just never said anything.”
She was stunned.
She kept driving onto the bridge and stopped just past the former tollbooths.
Kinard jumped from the car and opened the back door.
Butler died within moments.
He’d been shot four times, once in the head, once in the neck and twice in the back.
His body, she said, was draped over their child, as if he’d tried to shield him from the hail of bullets.
Butler’s father, Terry Smith, acknowledged later that his son ran with “the wrong crowd.”
And he knew someone was gunning for him: On July 4, someone opened fire on Butler at a gas station, just a few blocks away from where he was killed four months later.
He escaped the first shooting unscathed.
Smith suspects the same people came back to finish him off.
Butler was familiar to police, though his criminal history included mostly minor offenses and no violence.
He pleaded guilty in December 2010 to three counts of possession or distribution of prescription drugs without a prescription.
He was booked a half-dozen times between 2009 and August of this year with misdemeanor criminal trespassing, mostly for getting caught at the Fischer complex after he’d been banned from it, according to Municipal Court records.
The Housing Authority of New Orleans would not say Thursday what prompted his banishment.
Once, in 2011, officers tried to stop him there, and he fled. When he was caught, he told them “he ran because he has been arrested for trespassing before and did not want to return to jail.”
He pleaded either guilty or no contest each time, and was handed sentences of a month or two in jail, according to Municipal Court records.
He also had been booked with misdemeanor resisting an officer, using a fake name upon arrest and simple criminal damage to property.
Despite his troubled life, Smith said, Butler adored his little baby.
“Deshawn loved his son,” he said. “He always had his son with him.”
They were shot dead, side by side.
Serpas said there were at least two people in the SUV from which the fatal shots came, though there might have been more. The police do not yet know how many people fired at Kinard’s car, but ballistics tests should be able to confirm the number of shooters, they said.
A tipster told police Thursday that the dark-colored SUV might have had a silver bumper.
The Crimestoppers reward for information in the case began at $5,000 Wednesday night. On Thursday afternoon, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the FBI each added $5,000 more, for a total reward of $15,000 for anonymous tips that lead to an indictment.
“There’s a lot of money on the table, $15,000 cash,” said Darlene Cusanza, president of Crimestoppers of Greater New Orleans. “There is also a grieving family and a grieving community that really wants to find justice for this little baby.”
Dozens gathered in a field at the foot of the bridge Thursday evening. They carried candles, photos and stuffed animals, and they braved rush-hour traffic to march from the bridge to the underpass where the shots were fired.
There, they erected a memorial to the city’s latest dead child.
Paul Murphy of WWL-TV contributed to this report.