MIAMI: Police in Florida were investigating the murder of a three-year-old boy who was shot and killed at his own birthday party on Saturday evening (Apr 24).
Elijah LaFrance was probably struck by a stray bullet when "unknown subjects armed with various semi-automatic weapons, to include rifles, arrived on the scene and began discharging the firearms towards the residence" as the child's family cleaned up after the party in a Miami suburb, Miami-Dade police said.
The toddler was taken to the hospital, where he "succumbed to his injuries", according to police.
Authorities were offering a US$15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of suspects in the case.
Elijah, who would have turned four in a few days, was celebrating his birthday with another child, his family told local media.
Videos from the party show the children playing in a pool at the house, surrounded by colourful balloons.
Officers arrived on the scene after being alerted through the ShotSpotter system, a technology that listens for gunshots and is installed throughout nearly 100 American cities.
A 21-year-old woman was also shot in the incident. Police recovered more than 60 bullets at the scene.
"I am completely devastated, I'm disgusted," said Miami-Dade County Police Department Chief Alfredo Ramirez III as he vowed to invest every effort possible to solve the crime.
Young children are regularly victims of gun violence in the US, where firearms are common and elected officials struggle to come to consensus around regulations.