By Alexis R. Milan
A two-year-old boy was killed as he slept in his bed, while his mother survived an injury, during a predawn shooting on Tuesday, February 23rd in San Pedro Town.
Residents say a drug feud caused the shooting.
The toddler, Daniel Espat, was sleeping between his mother, Aleyda Sandoval and his father, Rolando Espat Sr. when a gunman opened fire on their front door around 2 a.m.
The toddler was hit twice in the head and his mom, Aleyda Sandoval took a bullet in the left elbow, which became lodged in her back, a police report said.
Superintendent of Police, Luis Castellanos, the officer in charge of the San Pedro police formation, said police took note of about eight bullet holes in the front door and recovered five slugs plus an expended shell from the crime scene.
Rolando Espat, Daniel’s Dad, said this is the fourth son that he has lost to gun violence. Espat said he is acutely aware that he was the intended target. He has been advised to leave the island, an option he said he is considering.
Espat said he is stunned at how his son, an innocent child was shot and killed, while he, the intended victim, escaped unharmed.
He had been lying in the front of the bed and his child was lying between him and his wife, who was occupying the furthest corner of the bed.
Supt. Castellanos said initial investigations have led the police to suspect that the incident may have been committed in retaliation for the February 2nd shooting of Kareem Eagan, a reported drug-dealer who has been involved in a bitter feud with the Espats.
Eagan has been detained for questioning as a person of interest but no charges have been brought against him.
Castellanos said the police have increased their patrols in the San Pedrito area, where gun violence has spiked.
Espat has lost six family members to gang-related violence. Four of them were his sons. The others were his brother-in-law, Edwardo Gutierrez and his 17-year-old nephew, Daniel Alamilla.
Gutierrez was found along with James Swan buried in shallow graves on the island in February of 2009.
His nephew, Daniel Alamilla, and his 18-year-old son, Charlie Espat, were found buried in shallow graves in Orange Walk in June of 2012.
Espat’s other son, Byron Estrada Espat, was killed in the Daddy Rock Nightclub in January 2013.
Most recently his oldest son, 22 year-old Rolando Espat Jr. was killed by a gunman in September 2014.