In 2013, the following email started circulating around the internet:
You won’t recognize me. My name was Antonio West and I was the 13-month old child who was shot at point blank range by two teens who were attempting to rob my mother, who was also shot. A Grand Jury of my mommy’s peers from Brunswick GA determined the teens who murdered me will not face the death penalty … too bad I was given a death sentence for being innocent and defenseless.
My family made the mistake of being white in a 73% non-white neighborhood, but my murder was not ruled a Hate Crime. Nor did President Obama take so much as a single moment to acknowledge my murder.
I am one of the youngest murder victims in our great Nation’s history, but the media doesn’t care to cover the story of my tragic demise, President Obama has no children who could possibly look like me — so he doesn’t care and the media doesn’t care because my story is not interesting enough to bring them ratings so they can sell commercial time slots.
There is not a white equivalent of Al Sharpton because if there was he would be declared racist, so there is no one rushing to Brunswick GA to demand justice for me. There is no White Panther party to put a bounty on the lives of those who murdered me. I have no voice, I have no representation and unlike those who shot me in the face while I sat innocently in my stroller — I no longer have my life.
So while you are seeking justice for Treyvon, please remember to seek justice for me too. Tell your friends about me, tell you families, get tee shirts with my face on them and make the world pay attention, just like you did for Treyvon.
On March 21, 2013, 13-month-old Antonio Santiago (also referred to as Antonio West, his mother’s surname) was shot to death in his stroller in the southeastern Georgia town of Brunswick. Antonio’s mother reported to police that her son had been killed by two boys who had demanded money from her and then shot Antonio when she did not comply with their demand:
Sherry West [said] that she was pushing her son in the stroller at 9 a.m. when two boys approached and demanded money, then wounded her and fatally shot her boy when she failed to give them any.
“He said, ‘I’m gonna kill you if you don’t give me your money,’ and I said, ‘I swear, I don’t have any,'” West said. “I put my arms over my baby and he shoves me and he shot my baby right in the head.”
Both boys then ran into a residential neighborhood of this seaside Georgia town about 30 miles north of Florida, she told police.
Though no one has reported seeing the shooting, several people called 911 after hearing it, he said.
“What we heard was that there were shots that went out in the area,” Rhodes said.
After stating that “there is no clear motive right now,” the public information officer was asked about West’s account of having been asked for money. “That is what the mother said,” he said. “We as law enforcement, we can’t go off of what anyone says. We have to thoroughly investigate this case.”
Rhodes said crime is not common in the residential neighborhood where West said her child was shot. “It’s a nice area, it’s a clean area, it’s an area where law-abiding citizens not only live, they also work and play.”
The following day, police arrested two suspects in the case, later identified as De’Marquise Elkins, who was 17 at the time, and 15-year-old Dominique Lang:
Two teenagers have been arrested in the shooting death of a 13-month-old boy who was in his stroller, according to police in Brunswick, Georgia.
The suspects are a 17-year-old boy and a 15-year-old boy, Police Chief Tobe Green told reporters. He said they are being held on suspicion of first-degree murder.
“We are turning every stone to get a motive,” said Green.
Sherry West said she was pushing her baby in his stroller as she walked home from the post office. She said a teenager, with a younger boy behind him, approached and asked her for money. West said when she told him she had no money, the teen drew a gun and said: “Do you want me to kill your baby?”
The gunman opened fire and West was shot in the leg, while another bullet grazed her left ear, she said. She watched helplessly as the gunman shot her son in the face, she said.
“A boy approached me and told me he wanted my money, and I told him I didn’t have any money,” she said. “And he said, ‘Give me your money or I’m going to kill you and I’m going to shoot your baby and kill your baby,’ and I said, “I don’t have any money and don’t kill my baby.”
The boy tried to grab her purse and opened fire when she said tried to tell him she had no money. She continued, “And then, all of a sudden, he walked over and he shot my baby in the face.”
Elkins was also indicted for another attempted robbery and shooting that took place ten days prior to the killing of Antonio West:
On March 11, according to the indictment, Elkins tried to rob a person identified as Wilfredo Calix-Flores, pointing a gun at him while demanding his cellphone and wallet. Elkins shot Calix-Flores in the arm with the same caliber revolver used to kill the baby 10 days later, the indictment says. He is charged with attempted robbery and assault with a deadly weapon.
Elkins’ sister, mother, and aunt were charged for tampering with evidence and providing false alibis:
The suspect’s mother, Karimah Elkins, and older sister, Sabrina Elkins, were charged with evidence tampering. The indictment says they threw the revolver that police suspect was used in the shooting into a saltwater pond where investigators recovered it.
Karimah Elkins and the suspect’s aunt, Katrina Elkins, were also charged with making false statements to police. The indictment says the aunt told investigators her nephew was at her house when the slaying occurred. It says the suspect’s mother told police that her son was with her when the baby was shot.
The comparisons in the example text between the killings of Trayvon Martin and Antonio West are an example of false equivalency, however, as the two cases are nearly polar opposites. In the Trayvon Martin case, there was never any doubt as to the identity of his killer (George Zimmerman), yet several weeks elapsed before the shooter was charged with a crime and taken into custody, and the local police were widely criticized for mishandling the investigation of the incident. In the Antonio West case the identity of the killer(s) was initially unknown, but suspects were quickly determined through police investigation and then promptly arrested and charged, with no one suggesting that local police mishandled any aspect of the case. The circumstances of the Trayvon Martin case therefore fostered the public perception (correct or not) that the case would never have been properly investigated and adjudicated had it not been widely publicized in the media, but nothing about the Antonio West suggested that anyone need “rush to Brunswick GA to demand justice” in order for justice to be done. The reference to a “hate crime” is also a red herring: George Zimmerman was not charged with a hate crime, nor did police investigating the Antonio West shooting find any evidence that the race of the victims was a factor in the commission of the crime.
The Antonio West killing did garner a fair amount of national coverage (particularly on CNN) at the time it occurred, but that level of attention soon waned when suspects were arrested and charged within days of the shooting. In a country that sees over 16,000 homicides every year, only a small handful receive prolonged national attention, and the Antonio West case had no sensational or controversial aspects of the type that typically drive ongoing national media coverage.
The defendants in that case did not face the death penalty if found guilty, not because (as claimed above) a grand jury decided they should not, but because Georgia law precludes capital punishment for crimes committed by persons under the age of 18:
District Attorney Jackie Johnson of the Brunswick Judicial Circuit said in a statement she would not seek the death penalty against either suspect because Georgia law doesn’t allow capital punishment for defendants charged with crimes committed before they were 18.
On Aug. 30, 2013, De’Marquise Elkins was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. His mother Karimah Elkins was convicted of tampering with evidence and sentenced to ten years. Dominique Lang testified against Elkins, and his trial is still pending.