Family of 22-month-old killed says arrests are answered prayers

By: Cole Heath

Updated:

The family of 22-month-old Aiden McClendon spoke out Thursday from the State Attorney’s Office, just hours after the arrest of his accused murderer.

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said Henry Lee Hayes, an alleged member of the Problem Child Entertainment gang, is charged with murder after he opened fire on a car that 22-month-old Aiden McClendon and two family members were inside on Jan. 29.

Williams said Aiden was an unintended target in a shooting fueled by rap video taunts between two Jacksonville street gangs.

Police said Aiden's cousin Reginald Williams, a member of the Out East gang, was in the front yard at time of shooting and was likely the shooters' intended target. Another shooter has yet to be charged, according to police. 

D'Angelo Wilson, 23, was arrested Feb. 4 and charged as an accessory to the fact.

Aiden’s grandmother Rhonda McDowell said waiting for the news they heard Thursday has kept them going and now they have a sense of closure.

Aiden’s family said they did not know Hayes, the alleged gang member accused of killing Aiden.

Aiden’s 8-year-old brother, Xavier Glenn Jr., told us he misses the little things, like talking with the toddler.

“It has been hard because I lost a brother. I can’t talk to him anymore, I can’t see him anymore, I can’t say anything else to him anymore. It’s just really hard for me,” he said.

Aiden’s brother Xavier also had words for the teen charged in his brother’s death.

“He deserves whatever he gets because he killed my brother,” he said.

Aiden’s mom, Tomeshia Brown, answered some questions, but mostly kept to herself, containing her emotions.

“It was really difficult for me, walking around not knowing who did this to my son,” Brown said.

McDowell said finding out who killed Aiden was the news she prayed for.

“I felt, I prayed for it. Aiden’s birthday is Monday and I said this is the best gift ever for Aiden,” McDowell said.

Action News Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said cases like these are common.

“PCE is a gang under the disguise of a rap group,” Jefferson said.

Jefferson said raps are often used to stir up real violence in the streets

“They have a message in that song, rival gangs, members they’re after… it’s like they’re giving a verbal death warrant through a rap song,” Jefferson said.

“They’re basically killing each other because of rap songs, it’s stupid,” said Brown.

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