Polk deputies investigate shooting death of 2-year-old Lakeland - WFLA News Channel 8

Polk deputies investigate shooting death of 2-year-old Lakeland boy

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1530 Arthur Boulevard 1530 Arthur Boulevard
LAKELAND, FL (WFLA) - Barbara Griffin still smiles when she thinks about the bright, friendly 2-year-old who lived next door for about a year.

"He was a sweet little ol thing," she said. "He'd talk just as plain as me and you. He was a good little boy."

His name was Taj H. Ayesh. Neighbors would often see him playing in the yard. But around 8:30 Monday night, something happened. Young Taj died after apparently getting shot. Polk County detectives are trying to figure out exactly how it happened.

Stephanie Sharell Nealy, 29, is the boy's mother. She told detectives she went outside her Lakeland home at 1530 Arthur Blvd. to get a pre-paid card from a truck. Taj followed her.

Nealy told investigators there was a loaded handgun inside the truck. She moved it, she said, while she searched the truck for the card.  She says she was facing away from the truck when she heard a gunshot. She turned to see her son fall to the ground behind her.

Neighbor Orlando Coiradas, a few doors down, had never heard a gunshot in this neighborhood up until that point.

"I was watching a show on TV and I heard a gunshot," he remembers.

Griffin heard it too.

"Then about 5 or 10 minutes later my son came in and said 'a baby got shot. The baby got shot," she said. "By the time I got over there - [Nealy] had already gotten in the truck with the baby and then the [father] ran out and got in the truck and they speeded away."

Nealy and the boy's father, Hathum R. Ayesh, 36, took Taj to Lakeland Regional Medical Center. Doctors tried to save him in surgery, but he did not survive.

Now the Polk County Sheriff's Office is digging deeper to figure out what happened, as a neighborhood tries to grasp what the boy's family is feeling.

"Hopefully they can - in time - heal and find comfort somehow," Coiradas said.

Detectives are waiting for autopsy results. No one is facing charges.

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