When the deal went south, prosecutors say a gunman unleashed a hail of bullets into Monroe’s car, hitting the infant, who had been strapped into the back seat, four times, including once in the head.
Now, prosecutors allege the baby, Yazeem Jenkins, who survived the shooting and is still fighting for his life, didn’t just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Monroe, they say, purposely had his son with him that night — as protection.
“Our investigation has led us to believe that he intentionally had his child with him when he was making such types of purchases with the idea or belief that if someone saw that he had a child in the car, that they would not fire upon him,” Anthony Voci Jr., chief of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Homicide Unit, told reporters at a news conference Tuesday, describing Yazeem as “a human shield.”
Monroe was arrested on Saturday and charged with recklessly endangering another person and endangering the welfare of a child, Voci said. An attorney for Monroe could not be reached for comment early Thursday.
Yazeem’s shooting, one of two back-to-back incidents involving young children, marked a tragic October weekend for Philadelphia, prompting city officials to voice renewed concern about gun violence. One day after Yazeem was critically injured, 2-year-old Nikolette Rivera was shot in the back of the head and killed while she was inside her home during what authorities said was another drug-related shooting, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported last month.
“These scenes should not continue to happen in our city,” acting Philadelphia police commissioner Christine Coulter said at an Oct. 21 news conference. “We can’t allow this violence to continue on our streets day in and day out and knowing that there’s people who wantonly have no regard for human life or human safety out there.”
Coulter went on to blast the shooters as “cowards.”
“They’re people who are firing guns indiscriminately into homes, into cars, with no regard with who they’re hitting and who they’re killing,” she said.
Suspects have since been arrested in both cases. Francisco Ortiz, the 29-year-old man charged with shooting Yazeem, is also accused of providing the AK-47 assault rifle that killed Nikolette, according to the Inquirer. Ortiz had allegedly been aiming for Monroe when he shot at the car carrying the infant, the newspaper reported.
The car was traveling through part of Hunting Park that October night when the gunfire rang out, according to police. During the Oct. 21 conference, authorities said a woman identified as Yazeem’s stepmother was driving at the time of the shooting, noting she did not realize the baby had been hit until she reached another neighborhood about a mile and a half north.
“I believe she was in a panic to get out of the way,” Philadelphia police Capt. Nicholas Brown told reporters.
But on Tuesday, Voci said Monroe was the driver, accusing the father of taking his son to a residence before dropping the baby at the hospital and fleeing. Monroe, Voci said, “never looked back and went into the wind.”
Yazeem was shot once in the head, once in the neck and twice in the buttocks with a 9mm gun, and police have said the infant’s prognosis is grim.
“There will be no chance for full recovery for that child,” Brown said in October. “If the child survives, he will most likely be a quadriplegic.”
In an October statement to WPVI-TV, Yazeem’s mother begged for “some form of closure or answers in this tragic situation,” describing her son as a “such a bubbly kid. So loving and lovable.”
“My son is fighting for his life and it is not fair,” the statement said. “For the coward who did this to him, you will pay. … God will handle you accordingly.”
Though Ortiz has been charged as the shooter, prosecutors say Monroe is also responsible for what happened to the child.
“He was using counterfeit money to purchase drugs, knowing that counterfeit money is something that is very upsetting to drug dealers,” Voci told reporters Tuesday, adding Monroe had used fake bills before. “When they find out that they’re being burned with counterfeit money, they act violently.”
Monroe has a preliminary hearing scheduled for Nov. 20, according to court records.