The father of a toddler who was fatally shot in a drive-by shooting in Kent says he’s not a gang member, despite the contention of police that the shooting was related to a feud between gangs.
The father of 1-year-old Malijha Grant vehemently denied being a gang member at a news conference on Monday even while Kent police maintained they believe the baby’s fatal shooting last month is connected to a long-running gang feud.
“This is what this is about right here,” said Malijha’s father, Martrice Grant, holding up a photo collage of his daughter during a news conference. “It’s about her. Period. Point blank.”
He claimed “the news has painted me to be some hardened gangster,” but Grant called himself “a grieving father.”
“My family has been targeted for gang violence that has nothing to do with us at all. I don’t know what to say. We’re lost,” said Grant, 29.
He called on his daughter’s shooters to “stop running. Be a man. Turn yourself in …”
“Or kill yourself,” added Malijha’s mother, Lisa Lynch.
“Nobody’s perfect, but nobody deserves to lose a baby to gun violence,” said Lynch.
Malijha was shot once in the head during the drive-by shooting on April 16 and died at Harborview Medical Center two days later.
The Seattle Times reported last week that homicide detectives are investigating the possibility that Malijha’s death was the result of a feud between longtime rivals, the Deuce 8 and Low Profile street gangs, based on search warrants filed in the case.
According to the warrants, Lynch told police the baby’s father is a Deuce 8 gang member but that “he has not been very active in the gang after recently being released from custody.”
Grant, during interviews with Kent police and again at the Monday news conference, denied being a gang member.
“This is not gang violence on our behalf. We play no part in that, let’s be clear,” he said.
Grant and Lynch were escorted out of the news conference at Kent City Hall without taking questions from reporters about Grant’s alleged gang ties.
Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas repeatedly said Monday that Malijha’s homicide is believed to be gang-related. He said his agency is throwing every resource it can into the investigation and is working with the Seattle Police Department’s gang unit, the FBI and a gun-crime task force led by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“It’s a really big deal. It’s a serious investigation,” and police need the public’s help to get justice for Malijha, Thomas said.
Asked if police are taking Grant’s assertions that he’s not involved in a gang at face value, Detective Melanie Robinson said, “That’s his statement, and at this point we’re not discussing this further.”
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Kent detectives are looking for a “vehicle of interest” that was seen on video footage following the shooters’ black sedan before and after the drive-by shooting, Thomas said.
“We don’t know if it was involved in this crime,” he said of what detectives believe is a silver 2007 Pontiac Grand Am with Washington state license plate 678 ZRL.
The vehicle was reported stolen in Renton on April 10 and has not been recovered.
But police found property stolen from the vehicle in the Skyway area, he said, though he didn’t provide details on what was found or when.
A video showing the suspected shooters’ car is being analyzed by the FBI in Virginia, Thomas said. Police believe it may be a Dodge Charger or a Chrysler 300.
“We believe this murder was gang-related,” Thomas said, noting that his detectives have identified 12 to 15 shootings involving the two gangs between Seattle and Tacoma. The time period when those shootings happened or how many of them resulted in injuries or fatalities remained unclear.
Neither Thomas nor Robinson would identify the gangs by name.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Kent Police Department’s tip line at 253-856-5808. A $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest is being offered through Crime Stoppers.
Thomas said police want to hear from anyone who was at the Safeway grocery near West Meeker Street and Washington Avenue South around 4 p.m. on the day of the shooting, or was in the area of the couple’s apartment complex off Lake Fenwick Road.
According to the warrants filed by Kent detectives, Malijha was strapped into a car seat when two men in a black car opened fire on the silver Chevrolet Impala her mother was driving about 4:30 p.m. Malijha’s father was in the front passenger seat.
A Kent detective wrote about the possible gang connection in the search-warrant affidavit related to Lisa Lynch’s cellphone:
There “is an ongoing feud between the Deuce 8 criminal street gang and the Low Profile criminal street gang and … this feud began sometime around March 2015 with the shooting of John Williams in Seattle.”
Williams, 24, was shot multiple times early on March 19 at Third Avenue and Pine Street in downtown Seattle and died at Harborview on March 22.