— Police have identified the mother of a 10-year-old Virginia boy who died of injuries sustained in a hit-and-run as a suspect in a child abuse case that sparked a nationwide manhunt and prompted a renewed crackdown on the city’s child abuse culture.
In a news release on Wednesday, Richmond police said the mother, identified only as Tia, is being sought in connection with the June 12 death of Joshua “Kel” Harris, who had a medical marijuana license.
Police said Harris was struck and killed by a driver who fled the scene.
The child was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Harris was a high school senior and a member of the group “Kids4Justice,” a group of parents and children who have organized protests in cities across the United States to demand change to how the Richmond Police Department handles child abuse allegations.
The group is based in the city and said in a statement that it’s “deeply saddened and outraged” by the news of Harris’s death and hopes the Richmond police department “finds justice and accountability for the death of a child.”
In an interview with ABC News on Tuesday, Harris’ mother, Maria DeSantis, said she didn’t think her son had been abused.
“He was a happy kid,” DeSants said.
“He had a great sense of humor, a great spirit.
And he was just a really sweet, innocent kid.
He was just, you know, very much into playing with people, like people he didn’t know.
And I know there were some people who would have liked to have seen him arrested for something more serious.”
Police have said the vehicle that struck Harris was a silver Nissan Sentra, and that it was driven by a black male who was driving a silver SUV.
Police said that Harris was wearing a blue shirt, a dark jacket, dark pants and blue socks.
DeSantes said she thinks Harris was hit while walking down a street near his home and was not hit by the vehicle.
Police did not identify the driver of the Nissan Sentras, but the Associated Press reports that the car was being investigated as being linked to a hit and run.
DeSants has repeatedly asked the Richmond City Council to hold an inquiry into Harris’ death.