BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — Two of the three people arrested after a Battle Creek 2-year-old was killed in a drive-by shooting last week have been formally charged with murder.
Martavon Nelson, 18, was arraigned Monday on charges of murder, assault and obstructing justice/failure to appear. Bond was denied, which means he’ll stay behind bars while his case works its way through the courts.
Jaylen Smith, 16, was charged as an adult with open murder, three counts of felony firearm, discharge of a firearm from a vehicle causing death, discharge at a building causing death and carrying a concealed weapon. Bond was denied.
Calhoun County Prosecutor David Gilbert said Smith is being charged as an adult due to the nature of the crime he’s accused of.
“Some offenses we can automatically waive them — arson of a dwelling house, first- and second-degree murder, solicitation to commit first- or second-degree murder, conspiracy to murder, armed robbery, things of that nature,” Gilbert said. “We can actually charge a juvenile as an adult without going through any process with the juvenile court.”
The shooting happened in the early hours of Sept. 20 on Cliff Street near Douglas Street in Battle Creek. Police say an SUV drove by and three people inside fired several shots into a house that contains apartments. Kai Turner, 2, was shot in the head. He died later in the day at the hospital.
“You shoot out of a car. You don’t know who you’re shooting at. You’re shooting into a building, and a young child dies because of your conduct. Those are serious. Those are aggravating factors,” Gilbert said. “It’s bad enough when you’re dealing with a grown-up who’s been killed. But now, a 2-year-old? … It hurts a lot.”
The Battle Creek Police Department says the people it suspects were the intended targets were in a different apartment in the same house.
The SUV used in the shooting was recovered later Sept. 20. It had been stolen two days earlier.
The suspects were arrested Wednesday and Thursday, two of them in Battle Creek and one in the Detroit area. The third suspect has not yet been formally arraigned, so News 8 is not yet using his name. He is 18.
Authorities said tips from the public helped police find the suspects.
“Typically in a homicide case, we have a hard time getting people to cooperate. Many times, people are afraid to cooperate. Many times, they don’t want to cooperate because they don’t want because their name out there,” Calhoun County Prosecutor David Gilbert said. “In this case … we have more cooperation than we typically get in one of these cases because there’s a lot of public outcry.”
Gilbert added there are more people who could provide key pieces to the investigative puzzle.
“We do get more help. But again … there’s a lot of people out there that have a lot of information that are not coming forward,” Gilbert said. “When we talk about more help, yes, there is more help, there is more outrage … but there’s a lot more help that could be given.”
Nelson and Smith are expected back in court for a hearing Oct. 5.
— News 8’s David Horak contributed to this report.