Scores gathered Sunday in the 2600 block of Colfax Avenue N. in Minneapolis to mark Terrell Mayes Jr.'s fourth birthday.
Terrell was killed by a bullet that strayed into his home the day after Christmas.
Many children were among the neighbors who congregated on a grassy lot to remember his life and to plead again for information about his killer. Community leaders urged the crowd to transform the often-troubled area into the kind of neighborhood they long for.
"It's been seven months, and my family needs closure," Terrell's mother, Marsha Mayes, told neighbors standing or sitting on lawn chairs in the shade of a big locust tree on the warm afternoon.
Nearby stood the light blue house where Terrell was shot. A bullet hole pierces the siding near where he was hit once in the head as he and his brothers ran upstairs to hide in a closet after shots rang out that day.
"My mission today is that the killer would turn himself in," Mayes said. She and her other three sons, ages 2, 11 and 12, have moved to a Minneapolis suburb. The 2-year-old still asks about Terrell, she said.
Mayes said her Christian faith has helped her deal with the grief. And Sunday's strong turnout by community members spoke to her of "the love for my son," she said.
Police spokesman Sgt. Steven McCarty said there have been no recent breaks in the investigation. A reward of $11,285 for information has been raised, and billboards with Terrell's face have gone up around the city.
The case focused attention on the problem of gunfire and gangs in some Minneapolis neighborhoods, including Hawthorne, where Terrell was shot. Another youngster, Nizzel George, 5, was killed June 27 when bullets were fired through the wall of his grandmother's home as he slept in the 4400 block of Bryant Avenue N. Two teenagers have been charged in that gang-related case.
Sunday's event featured a rapper who had composed a song about the boy's death and remarks from Mayes and several community leaders.
"We want to continually bring awareness to this community," said V.J. Smith, president of MAD DADS, the nonprofit group that organized the event. "We got a reward out, but still nobody is giving information, and it is time that somebody does that."
Also speaking was K.G. Wilson of Hope Ministries. "We are going to have to become neighbors," he said. "If we don't, we will just be a 'hood where people come in and kill our families.
"I hope the community takes this to heart and forms block clubs and becomes a neighborhood," he said later. "And that young men and young women will stand up and help us find somebody. ... Only in a 'hood are gangs and drugs allowed."
Jim Adams • 952-746-3283