Five-year-old Xavier Smith, or “Booba” to those who knew and loved him, had all the right moves.
His aunt Laloni Burke tearfully recalled Monday morning in a phone call from Atlanta that distance did little to keep them apart, that they would talk every day by video. “He would just show me his dance moves, his wrestling moves, tell me things about school,” she said. “He was going to kill it at football practice, that he would get a touchdown for me.”
Xavier, who played for Central Valley Jets youth football and dreamed of making the NFL, was killed in a drive-by shooting Saturday night as he played in the garage of his home on Lake Park Court in Modesto.
A vigil was held in front of the home Sunday night, and a memorial to him remained Monday: balloons, candles, stuffed animals, action figures of wrestlers, and a homemade poster to cheer on “Super Smith,” showing photos of him in his No. 9 Jets jersey.
His team will dedicate Saturday’s game to Xavier, Central Valley Jets President Melissa Gutierrez told KOVR Channel 13. “It really is like losing one of your own kids,” she told the TV station. “He never gave up and he was out there every day practicing, playing.”
A prayer gathering in his memory is set to be held at 6 p.m. Monday at The House Modesto church at Coffee Road and Briggsmore Avenue.
And at Christine Sipherd Elementary School, where Xavier was a kindergartner, counselors and psychologists will be available all week for students, parents and staff, said C.W. Smith, an assistant superintendent with the Empire Inion School District.
A gofundme page was created by Burke to accept donations to help Xavier’s parents, Marcus Smith and Tiffany Moun, with funeral expenses. But it stopped taking donations when the child’s grandmother Lele Smith opened an account at Self-Help Federal Credit Union.
On gofundme, Burke wrote: “This is the worst pain we'll ever feel. He was our life. I love you Xavier (booba) to the moon and back baby.”
The shooting occurred about 9:45 p.m. Saturday as a couple of groups of people gathered outside homes on the 1400 block of Lake Park Court. The neighborhood is made up of a cluster of small duplex homes down the street from a gated apartment complex.
Modesto police officers responding to the reported shooting arrived to find the Xavier wounded. Lifesaving measures were performed, but he was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Another boy, a 6-year-old friend and teammate of Xavier’s who was playing with him, also was wounded. That boy’s uncle was at his brother’s house, next door to Xavier’s, and spoke Monday morning about what he heard and saw.
The man, who would not give his name, said he was coming out of his brother’s house when he heard a series of pops but thought it was a car backfiring. As about half the crowd out front jumped up in reaction to the sound, “I’m teasing people for being scared and running – that’s how desensitized we are,” he said, noting that the other half of the crowd didn’t even react.
As some of those who jumped up settled back down, still apparently not realizing there’d been a shooting, “my brother’s son walks from over there to the circle, where we’re all sitting at the table. He comes up to his dad and says, ‘My ear,’ and he has blood in his ear like he got grazed.” (The man said he’s since come to believe the child was cut by flying glass from a bottle broken by gunfire.)
Quickly, there was screaming and yelling, and he and others saw Xavier lying on the garage floor. There were adults in Xavier’s home, he said, but the boys and a third child had been playing by themselves in the garage. Most adults were at his brother’s home to watch a game.
“It seems like they started shooting as they were going away,” he said, noting that the kids were separate from the adults. “... If there was anybody being retaliated on, they were sitting over here.”
He said he began asking questions of those gathered: “Like who’s got beef? … Where were you guys (before coming to the party)? How long you been here?”
There were theories and speculation, he said, but nothing more. But somebody there must have an idea of who was shooting and why, he said. “It was a big crowd – somebody knows something.”
Modesto Police Department spokeswoman Heather Graves said Sunday that detectives have not identified any suspects, nor a motive.
Anyone with information about the shooting is urged to call Detective Ra Pouv at 209- 572-9826 or Crime Stoppers at 209-521-4636. Callers to Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward.
Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327