One year after 3-year-old killed in Riviera Beach: Still no arrests

Ask about Martavious Carn, and tears still fill Major Leonard Mitchell’s eyes a year after the 3-year-old was killed in the city.

“It took me a while to compose myself after we got there (to the scene),” Mitchell said.

The toddler was shot dead late Aug. 14, 2016, in a parking lot at Mystic Woods, an apartment complex in the northwest corner of the city. Police have said the shooting was a targeted attack against 24-year-old Amir Stepherson, who also was killed.

RELATED: Police ID victim in Riviera Beach homicide

Only four days after the double homicide, police announced they were “uncomfortably close” to an arrest.

But one year — and 15 murders — later, they are still there: “uncomfortably close.”

“With a case like this, of this nature, as sensitive as it is, we want to have an airtight case,” said Major Travis Walker, who has helped lead the homicide investigation. Tips still trickle in through Crime Stoppers, he said, “but a lot of the times the tips are just points of origin,” not enough to guarantee a conviction.

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Authorities suspect Stepherson was targeted because of robberies with which he’d been involved.

And they know that little Martavious was in a car with his mother and Stepherson returning that Sunday evening to their home on Leo Lane off Military Trail between Blue Heron and Northlake boulevards when “one or more” gunmen fired at the car, then fled on foot.

But that’s about all authorities will say publicly about the case.

Martavious’ mother, who was not injured in the shooting, could not be reached for comment.

‘Retaliation shootings’

Martavious’ and Stepherson’s killings came in the midst of what authorities called a string of “retaliation shootings,” back-and-forth violence that rocked Riviera, West Palm Beach and unincorporated pockets of the county for months.

Riviera authorities’ public cries for a stop to the violence were loudest after the December killing of 15-year-old Makayla Dennard, who was fatally shot in the driveway of a home on West 36th Street, the same home where three people were shot a month earlier.

At a press conference after Makayla’s death, Mayor Thomas Masters urged police to do “everything they legally can” to curtail the city’s gun violence, including implementing checkpoints and enforcing curfews.

Police added more officers to patrol high-crime areas and Masters went to those communities to ask how the city could help them stay safe. At Mystic Woods, that meant working with the complex’s managers to boost security and encourage residents to look out for one another.

“Everybody has a right to live in a safe community,” said City Manager Jonathan Evans in a recent interview. “I want everyone to feel comfortable in Riviera Beach.”

Resident cooperation

Riviera authorities said they haven’t seen as many retaliation shootings this year as they did this past year.

They credit that to residents’ increasing cooperation with authorities and the arrests that followed.

Witnesses helped police pin three teens to Makayla’s death. Those teens were arrested in March.

“These warring groups going back and forth, we know who they are,” said Riviera Police Chief Clarence Williams after those arrests. “If they step out of line I have confidence that these hard-working men and women (in the police department) will do what they do each and every day, keep our community safe.”

Fifteen people, including Makayla, have been killed in Riviera since the Aug. 14, 2016, double murder. None of the victims has been as young as Martavious.

Police are optimistic they’ll make an arrest in that double homicide.

“But the family never gets closure if you lose a child,” Mitchell said, “even if you get that conviction.”

KNOW SOMETHING? Anyone with information about Sunday’s shooting is asked to contact Riviera Beach police at 561-845-4123 or Crime Stoppers of Palm Beach County at 800-458-TIPS (8477).

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