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Family of child killed by stray bullet on July 4th pleads for justice during tearful vigil

By Chad Mills

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    TAMPA, Florida (WFTS) — A sweet child who repeatedly told his mother he loved her.

That’s how family members remembered Yitzian Torres Garcia during a Thursday night fraught with tears and pleas for justice.

“He was just a baby,” one family member said through a translator. “He was just seven years old.”

The vigil happened on the south side of the Courtney Campbell Causeway, where Tampa Police say Garcia, 7, was killed on the evening of July 4 during a massive Independence Day celebration. Garcia, from Puerto Rico, was vacationing in Tampa to visit his grandparents.

“We are in the news not to become famous,” said Garcia’s grandmother, Marisol Ayala, through a translator. “We are in the news because we want justice. Because he was seven years old.”

According to the Tampa Police Department, an argument between two groups of people led to the fatal shooting.

Police said one group was upset because the second group was “recklessly” driving their jet skis too close to where kids were playing in the water. The argument ultimately escalated into a shooting between the two groups, police said.

According to Tampa Police, when the shooting started, the boy’s grandfather tried to shield him and pulled him into a truck. While inside, a round went through the truck, hitting the grandfather in the finger and then hitting Garcia.

Police believe the same round hit the grandfather, Juan Carlos Hernandez, and the boy.

“It’s not easy from one moment to another to have somebody with you, and then, when you open your eyes, he’s not there anymore,” Hernandez said during the vigil, through a translator.

More than 48 hours after the shooting, no arrests have been made, and as the child’s family pleads for justice, it knows that someone knows something.

“Whoever has any video, any tips, please help us. Like, we are in 2023. Everybody records everything,” said Cristalie Colon, one of the child’s aunts.

As for Garcia, family members said he will be buried in his native Puerto Rico in a plot next to a late grandmother. According to the family, Yitzian promised her that he would always be her guardian angel.

During the vigil, the family also thanked those who donated to a GoFundMe page aimed at making that special burial possible.

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