By J. K. Schmid, Special to the AFRO

Police announced the arrest of a Baltimore man, suspected in the murder of 7-year-old Taylor Hayes at a 2 p.m. press conference today.

“I’d like to announce the arrest of of 29-year-old Keon Gray of Baltimore for the murder of 7-year-old Taylor Hayes,” said Interim Baltimore City Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle, flanked by Hayes’s family and Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow. “Of course, Mr. Gray is innocent until proven guilty, but this is a long time coming with respect to the arrest of the person that we are alleging is responsible, or one of the persons we are alleging is responsible for Taylor’s death.”

Keon Gray (pictured) is alleged by Chief Deputy State’s Attorney, Michael Schatzow (left) and Interim Baltimore City Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle (center) to be Taylor Hayes’s killer at a press conference with the Hayes family (right). (Courtesy Photo)

Baltimore Police have named Daneka McDonald, whom they allege to be Gray’s girlfriend, as an accessory after the fact.

Hayes was shot in the back at approximately 2:30 p.m. July 5 while seated in the back of a car in Southwest Baltimore. Officer Steven Reed, first on the scene, “did everything he could to save her life,” Tuggle said. Hayes was put under the care of Dr. Thomas Scalea and what Tuggle described as an “incredible team,” with University of Maryland Shock Trauma.

Hayes died July 19.

The coda of the 10-minute conference was community coming together.

“The community rallied around the family. When you see the number of tips, and there was great investigative work, by not just Baltimore City Police Department, but by surrounding jurisdictions,” Tuggle said. “An incredible effort between this department, the state’s attorney’s office, and just really solid police work on the part of homicide, warrant apprehension task force, the district police officers, and a number of folks that sort of took this personally.”

Tuggle thanked Anne Arundel County, the jurisdiction where Gray was apprehended, for its support.

At the time of the conference, Gray was in custody, but had not yet been delivered to the jurisdiction of Baltimore.

“We took this case very seriously, as we do all homicide cases,” Schatzow said. “Today’s arrest was the result of very diligent and effective teamwork between Baltimore Police Department and the City’s State’s Attorney’s office. I’d like to recognize Assistant State’s Attorneys Charles Blomquist, and Matthew Pillion, who led our efforts and worked very closely over a long period of time, in order to get to this day.”

Schatzow concluded by echoing Tuggle’s advisement, that Gray is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

“It takes a little relief from Shanika, but at the end of the day, she’s still don’t have her daughter back,” said Ebony Ward, Hayes’s aunt, on behalf of the Hayes family.

Ward expressed much more certainty than city officials, thanking them for arresting Hayes’s killer.

“It’s about to be a long road, but we’re gonna get through it,” Ward said. “It won’t bring Taylor back, but at least we’re about to get some type of justice. And we just want to thank everybody for all their hard work, and we really appreciate it.”

In the wake of the brutal beating of an unarmed man by a Baltimore police officer, a reporter asked Tuggle if the city needed a result like this.

“Hundreds of things in this city happen that are positive every single day,” Tuggle said. “Unfortunately, it gets overshadowed by the one or two negative things. The community came together to support Taylor’s family, to support the police department, and for a time, we put everything to the side, we put all of our differences to the side, to come together to make this thing happen… If we’re gonna move forward, those are the kinds of things it takes to move forward. I’m particularly proud of where we are today, and really sad that we had to get here this way.”