Birch shooting

A stroller and baby carrier can be seen near the scene of a shooting on Birch Street. A three-year-old boy was in critical condition after the shooting.

A three-year-old boy died Saturday from what appears to have been an accidental shooting.

Police said Amir Antoine was shot just before noon in a home in the 1900 block of Birch Street near Memorial Stadium. Sgt. Don Coppola Jr. said the investigation remains open and ongoing. 

East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III said Saturday that the limited information available to him indicated it was an accident. These findings are still preliminary, he said.

Moore emphasized the importance of keeping firearms properly stored and out of reach of children.

A coroner's report will determine the official cause and manner of death. 

This was the second juvenile hurt in Baton Rouge gun violence in less than 24 hours. A victim estimated to be about five years old was shot in the hand at the Super 8 Motel on Reiger Road across town late Friday afternoon, authorities said.

Birch Street is a residential road off Scenic Highway, just north of Memorial Stadium and west of Interstate 110.

On Saturday afternoon, officers stood in the road in front of the teal and cream house roped off by police tape, murmuring to each other. Two women sat on the steps of the front porch, holding each other and sobbing.

Neighbors lingered in yards, watching the women silently, while several children scampered along the perimeter of the crime scene tape. Some residents remained behind their screened-in porches, observing the scene from the shelter and anonymity of the shade. 

Most people kept their distance, avoiding the boundaries of the cordoned-off area.  

In the front yard where the women wept, a stroller could be seen parked beside a small white car. Various toys littered the grass or driveway — a bike helmet, a red play truck, a deflated kiddie pool. A baby carrier rested on the porch, empty.

Like several other houses on the street, a string of unlit twinkle lights was still draped neatly along the eaves, a remnant of Christmas.

A neighbor, who did not wish to be named, said the family generally kept to themselves and minded their own business. But she said child who lived there was "a beautiful little boy," who would always wave at her and say, "Hi, neighbor!"

Neighbors said the street was usually quiet, largely home to retirees and families. Some residents have lived there for upwards of 30 years, while others have moved in and out for different reasons. One neighbor said several drug houses popped up along the block at one time, but lately it had been a more subdued area.

When investigators finally emerged from the house carrying cameras and yellow folders, the officers standing in the road removed the police tape, releasing a stream of loved ones who had arrived to comfort the family. Before he left, one investigator knelt beside the two women, speaking quietly to them, head bowed. 

Soon after, the women retreated into their home, followed by family and friends. Many clutched each other around the waist or shoulders as they climbed the steps. Outside, neighbors returned to their homes with somber faces while several children took advantage of the sunny day and began to play basketball in the newly-empty street, dribbling around the patrol units departing the scene.

Moments later, a grief-stricken wail broke from inside the house, piercing the recent silence of the street; only then did some people exit the front door to lean against cars, shake their heads and wipe their eyes. 

Before Saturday's death, seven people, all adults, had been shot and killed in East Baton Rouge Parish since the start of the new year. Following a particularly violent November and December, police have approached solving the recent homicides with renewed energy, already making arrests in almost half of this month's murders.