In line at a liquor store in San Bernardino on Friday night, 9-year-old Travon Williams asked his father to buy him a bag of candy. His father agreed and Travon, like the soon-to-be fifth-grader he was, marked the moment with a jump and a dance out the door beside his dad and another man, an employee recalled.
In the parking lot, just steps away from the door, someone opened fire and then ran.
The child was killed along with his father, Travon Lamar Williams, 26, and Samathy Mahan, 25, San Bernardino police said.
"It was 30 seconds to kill three people," said store manager Saifaldin Baji.
San Bernardino police said the three were exiting the Superior Liquor & Grocery on Del Rosa Avenue about 9:15 p.m. when a man armed with a handgun approached them from behind and shot all three.
The motive for the shooting is not yet known, but Mahan was a known gang member and was believed to be the intended target, police Sgt. Vicki Cervantes said. It was unclear what Mahan's relationship may have been to the boy and his father, she said.
The child's mother, Ebony Newman, 27, came upon the scene at the liquor store as she and her husband – Travon's stepfather – and Travon's two younger sisters were out walking.
She did not realize that her son was one of the victims at first, when someone told her that the dead boy, whose face was covered, was 11 years old.
"I pulled up to the scene, thinking it's another situation in San Bernardino, and it's my baby," she said, crying uncontrollably. "What mom in her mind would think, that's my baby? This is not right. This is not right."
Late Saturday morning, Newman sat inconsolable in a chair in their apartment. She scrolled through her phone, looking at photos and watching videos of her oldest child, showing him on hikes, bouncing around parks, racing his sisters, dancing. He loved dancing, she said.
In the fall, he was supposed to start his last year of elementary school.
"They didn't give my baby a chance to show what he was made of," she said.
The boy's grandfather, Steven Newman, 52, said the family all lived in the neighborhood. He said the child's father, the older Williams, was not gang affiliated, and he was unsure how Williams knew Mahan.
"Travon's dad was no gang banger," he said. "He was a dancer and a rapper."
He said he did not know who the shooter was, but said, "He needs to turn himself in."
Baji, the manager of the liquor store, said the three victims lived in the apartments behind the store and were regular customers.
"I would see them every day, five, six times," he said. "They're really cool, humble people … laughing, having fun, everything nice."
The three deaths on Friday – along with the death of another man in another part of town earlier in the evening – raised the grim tally of homicides in San Bernardino this year to 37, putting a city still recovering from a mass shooting in December, well on track for its most violent year since the 1990s.
The recent shootings have inspired community members to organize and rally against violence and to call for change, but other than a lull during several weeks in late spring and early summer, it continues.
In March, another child, 12-year-old Jason Spears was shot and killed in front of another convenience store – like Travon, just blocks from his home.
San Bernardino police investigating Friday's shooting posted images online of the suspect captured by a store surveillance camera and pleaded with the community to help them solve the crime.
On Twitter, Lt. Travis Walker posted a photo of the suspect along with this message:
"Here's a hashtag #BreakTheStreetCode! He doesn't deserve anonymity! Please contact The SBPD with information."
Police asked that anyone with information contact Det, Granado at (909) 953-4675 or Sgt. Sullivan at (909) 384-5663.
MORE LOCAL NEWS