NEW YORK -- Rayvon Jamison would have been 10 months old on Tuesday.
Instead, he will be buried.
A baby so pudgy and muscular his family nicknamed him "Mike Tyson," Rayvon was in his grandmother's apartment, toddling in his blue walker over to the refrigerator last Monday while his family watched Arsenio Hall on the "Donahue" show.
"All of a sudden it was like a nightmare," recalled Rayvon's grandmother, Marion Jamison, in her fifth-floor flat on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx last week. "I heard these gunshots . . . BOW! BOW! BOW! . . . The shots came repeatedly. They were coming through the door, ripping the door up."
One 9mm bullet hit Rayvon under his arm near his heart, another in his head. "He was covered with blood," Jamison said. While the baby's aunt held him and his mother, weeping hysterically, phoned 911, Rayvon Jamison became the fourth child killed by gunfire intended for someone else in New York City within a nine-day period.
Even to New Yorkers supposedly accustomed to the "violence du jour," the bizarre spate of shootings that has taken four young lives has shaken the city and spurred desperate demands for action.
"Children look to us to protect them," said Cedric McClester of the New York Urban League and grandfather of a 2-year-old, "and when they're not even safe in their own homes, it's a frightening state of affairs."
By the police department's estimate, 15 bystanders, five under the age of 16, have been killed in the gunfire since the start of this year. On the streets, there is a term for such innocent victims.
"They call us 'mushrooms,' and that's what we are," said Beverly Danner, wheeling her small son and daughter in a stroller across the street from where Rayvon Jamison was killed. "You can't live inside and you can't live outside."
"You have to have a revolving head," said her husband, Nathaniel Danner Jr., a fire safety inspector who wants to move to the suburbs. In their Bronx apartment, the couple doesn't allow their children, Nathaniel III and Destiny, to go near the doors or the windows.
The string of recent killings began just after midnight July 22 when 9-year-old Veronica Corales was hit in the head by a stray bullet as she napped on her mother's lap in a car, exhausted after a day at an amusement park. A 22-year-old former minor league baseball player has been indicted in the shooting, in which he reportedly fired wildly at another man to avenge his brother.
One-year-old Yaritimi Fruto was shot in the head by gunmen who fired into the car her father was driving through Brooklyn on July 24. Both she and her father died. Her father had been on the way to criminal court to turn himself in for weapons possession.
Three-year-old Ben Williams was asleep on a pullout couch in the living room when more than 18 rounds of bullets tore through the door of his family's Brooklyn apartment July 26. He died instantly and was buried on Tuesday. The gunmen were said to be after Ben's half brother, who had fled to the family's apartment to escape rival drug dealers.
The midsummer surge in the city's continuous crime wave has swept beyond traditionally high-crime neighborhoods and into those considered more "safe."
In the last two weeks alone, an 18-year-old who once tap-danced in the lead role of a Broadway show was killed by a rooftop sniper while driving his new BMW to a grocery store in a middle-class Bronx neighborhood. A 33-year-old television executive was shot while making a business call from a Greenwich Village phone booth. A couple on their first date were bludgeoned by a deranged man as they sat by a lake in Central Park.
Relatives of Saliman Said, the 22nd cab driver killed this year, said they will take the family back to the Middle East, where it is safer.
New York "is not Dodge City," proclaimed Mayor David N. Dinkins (D), who has been besieged by criticism in recent days that he is not doing enough. The mayor has hardly been helped by his police commissioner, Lee P. Brown, who said in a recent moment of desperation, "What can I do, I'm only the police commmissioner?"
Proposals and finger-pointing have flown from all corners. One council member called for the legalization of Mace. Republican gubernatorial candidate Pierre A. Rinfret criticized Gov. Mario M. Cuomo (D) for opposing the death penalty.
Friday, Dinkins announced a 60-day amnesty for those who turn in illegal guns to the police. The same day, subway police were told they can now buy 9mm handguns, more powerful than the weapons they previously were allowed to carry.
From City Hall to the Bronx's Grand Concourse, the talk is of the proliferation of guns -- in particular, the semiautomatic weapons that killed all four children.
"Old days, you got in a beef with someone, you fight with your hands," said David Jamison, Rayvon's uncle, sitting glumly in his grandmother's apartment. "Nowadays, even the kids have access to guns." Two 18-year-olds and one 22-year-old have been charged in the shooting of Rayvon, which police said was intended to warn Joseph Jamison, another of the baby's uncles, who had sketched an unflattering cartoon of one suspect's hairstyle.
Rayvon's tragedy has left his family in trauma. "We had big ideas on our mind to plan a future for that little kid, 'cause so many people loved him," said Marion Jamison, breaking down in tears. "This is a nightmare. I don't even sleep at night." She plans to move out of the city. Where? "Somewhere else," she said.
Rayvon's 7-year-old sister, Tiffany, who witnessed the shooting, has become mute. "You talk to her, she goes in a deep stare," Marion Jamison said. "She doesn't answer. My daughter's going to take her to a psychologist."
Chip, the family dog, cowers under the table near the metal-plated door, still pocked with seven bullet holes in a line. On the floor next to the refrigerator is a puddle Chip left when the shooting happened.
"Go get me some Top Job," Marion Jamison said to her son, "so I can wash all the floors."