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Antiq Hennis and his parents were a block from their home in the Brownsville section when witnesses said three or four shots were fired.
Local media, citing law enforcement sources and family members, reported that the child's father was the intended target, but that Antiq was shot in the head.
The child's father was unharmed but distraught after the bullets, a neighbor told the New York Daily News.
"He was screaming 'My baby got shot.' He was going crazy," said Gina Gamboa. "The baby was breathing, but his eyes were closed. It's crazy. They just will start shooting."
The New York Post reported that his father, Anthony Hennis, has a record of more than 20 arrests in New York and Pennsylvania for narcotics, weapons possession and other crimes. The Daily News said detectives believe the shooting was payback for an earlier dispute.
Antiq was rushed to Brookdale University Hospital, where he died just before 9 p.m.
Outside the hospital, a woman who said she was Antiq's godmother was shaking with grief, The New York Times reported. She said she had kissed him goodbye.
"Oh, God, he's so innocent," she said.
"He was very energetic, happy," said the child'd uncle, Chris Dobson. He said Antiq's parents, who hail from Trinidad, celebrated their son's first birthday in May.
"Tragedy happened," Dobson said. "It's just sad."
Bishop Willie Billops of the Church of Faith, Hope and Charity, who knows the boy's father, told the Post that he drove the parents to the hospital to identify the body of their only child.
"I'm outraged at the murder of a one-year-old baby," Billops said. "I grew up in this neighborhood and I've seen a lot — but this is the worst."
"The family is shocked and devastated," Councilman Charles Barron told the Daily News. "The child didn't even get a chance to start his life, and now it's over."