Boy shot in Manchester was innocent victim, police say

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The Independent Online

A 15-year-old boy who was shot dead outside a basketball court in Manchester was an innocent victim who found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, police said yesterday. Jessie James, whose BMX bike was found on the grass where he fell, had been riding around the Moss Side district of the city minutes before he became the latest victim of a resurgent turf war between local gangs, in which he had no involvement.

"There is not one shred of intelligence to suggest Jessie James was a member or affiliated to any gang," said Det Supt Tony Cook, who is leading the hunt for the killer. "I am not saying they intended to shoot Jessie. Perhaps he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, perhaps a mistaken identity".

Jessie, who was shot three times in the early hours of Saturday in Raby Street, less than half-a-mile from his home, is the youngest victim of Moss Side's gang wars since the death 13 years ago of Benji Stanley, 14, who was caught in crossfire as he queued for a takeaway.

Police initially suggested that the latest death, at the hands of a gunman wielding a semi-automatic pistol, was a revenge attack for an earlier shooting - though his family insisted that he was a victim of mistaken identity.

It emerged yesterday that Jessie's mother, Barbara Reid, 47, was alerted after his friends hammered on her door. She dashed to where her son's blood-soaked body lay but he was already dead. Police were already at the scene.

"He was a good boy, brought up to believe in God," said Mrs Reid, a member of the congregation at a local Seventh Day Adventist church. Jessie is known to have been passionate about music, football, swimming and weightlifting. His mother's pastor, Michael Simpson, said: "He was extremely polite, pleasant and helpful around the community. He was not part of that gang culture. "

Greater Manchester Police have not discounted the murder being linked to a number of tit-for-tat shootings between warring gangs in the area.

The death comes less than three months after Ernest Gifford, 45, was shot at his home, also in Raby Street, in what is believed to have been a dispute over money owed for drugs.