Cornelius Carrington wasn't an easy child to refuse.
The 4-year-old ball of energy had a heart-melting smile and a radiance that helped him charm his great-grandmother to give him a bedroom, which they decorated with pictures of his favorite super hero: Spider-man.
Wanda Benson laughed as she recalled how her great-grandson only slept in that room a single night, preferring to sleep with his Granny and Paw Paw instead.
"But everybody that came to the house, came through that front door, he'd make them go and see his room," she said. "He'd take them to his room. He was proud of that room but he was not sleeping in there."
He was also eager to start school in 2021. So Benson made a him a deal: If he was potty trained by the time school started, he could attend pre-K at Rise Academy.
"Boy, every day he'd get up and use the potty and bring the whole pot to the bed," she said. "'Granny, I pottys.' He was just glad to go to school."
And even though the school offered meals, Wanda sent Cornelius with a lunch box full of food. It became a running joke with his teachers to see what he brought that day.
The last day of Cornelius' life started like any other. He woke up and his Paw Paw took him to school for the last day of classes before Christmas break. They'd stop at Rise and Shine donuts first where Paw Paw got a coffee and Cornelius an orange juice.
"He'd take that to school, too," Wanda said. "Never mind I packed him two, three juices in his box."
At 3:25 p.m. he came home and started on his homework. Wanda told Cornelius he didn't have to worry about homework until after Christmas. But Cornelius was determined to show he could do the work.
Next on Cornelius' agenda was playing on the trampoline with his cousins.
Although Cornelius lived with his great-grandparents, on Dec. 17, 2021, Carrington's father made a rare visit and asked if he could take his son to a house in the 700 block of Ursuline.
Wanda said she was hesitant, but relented because she was overwhelmed by Cornelius' pleas.
"He was just making me feel sad, so I let him go," she said.
A year later, Wanda wishes she said no.
"I hate that I let him go," she said sitting in the Lubbock police Department's media room during a Dec. 12 news conference. "That was the last time I seen him alive."
A drive-by shooting
At 8:50 p.m., about two hours after Cornelius left with his dad, Benson received a phone call that shattered her heart. She was told her grandson was struck by a bullet that homicide detectives believe was fired from a white or light colored compact SUV that drove past the house Carrington's father was staying at.
"It was so hard to believe a 4-year-old kid got shot," she said. "I couldn't comprehend it. It was hard to understand."
When Benson got to the hospital, doctors told her the boy who brought her and her family so much joy was dead.
"That little boy was everything to me," she said. "He made my day. Every day. He was so proud of things. He made me feel good because the little things that I did for him he thought so much of it. When you get old, people really don't pay much attention to you. He showed me that love that nobody else was showing me. And I really miss him. He was a big part of my heart."
An appeal for information
Cornelius' shooting remains an active, open investigation, police officials said, and no arrests have been made.
Lt. Marc Wall, who leads the Lubbock Metro Special Crimes Unit, said during the Dec. 12 news conference that detectives continue to follow up on leads they've received in the year since the shooting and they believe they're missing one piece of information to solve the case.
Wall described the information they have so far as third-party information, which doesn't give detectives the probable cause needed for a judge to sign a search warrant or subpoenas for records.
Wall believes that someone in the community holds that last puzzle piece that will help them bring Carrington's killer to justice.
"We don't know who that person is, but I know just based on my involvement in this case, someone within our community has that information," he said. "They know what happened. They know the specific people involved. And they know exactly what happened."
A $15,000 reward is being offered for information that could help them solve Carrington's death.
But Wall appealed to the community's conscience for someone to come forward.
"It shouldn't require monetary incentive for somebody to do the right thing," he said during the news conference. "That's essentially what we're discussing today. Whoever has information related to this case needs to do the right thing. they need to come forward and they need to give us that information so that we can move forward with this case. "
Wall didn't provide a specific motive in the shooting, but said the home Carrington was in was the target.
"Typically, with drive-by shootings, it's because someone has had a disagreement with somebody that they've become so angry that they want to seek retribution," Wall said. "To me it's the most cowardly act that somebody could take."
In this case, a 4-year-old who was going about his life, died a little more than a week before Christmas.
"He loved Christmas," Benson said. "He wanted to open a gift every day. He said, 'Granny is it time yet? Is it time yet?' (and I would say,) 'No, it's not time yet.'"
Benson described her great-grandson as an energetic boy full of ambition and love.
He loved roller skating, playing on the trampoline with his friends and cousins and going to the park.
"I used to hate to pass by Mackenzie Park," she said. "It'd be freezing cold outside and he'd want to go to a park."
He had a mischievous side but was quick to make amends, she said.
"If he did something wrong to one of them, he was quick to run and hug them and kiss them and tell them he's sorry," Benson said.
Cornelius also looked forward to playing sports.
"He wanted to play football," she said. "He was going to be the quarterback and he was going to win everything."
Benson sat beside Cornelius' aunt Natasha Carrington and his grandmother Tiffany Carrington, during the Dec. 12 news conference. They pleaded for someone to come forward with the information detectives need to find out who killed her grandson.
"It's just still hurting because no one has came forward to say anything about it and it's just sad," she said. "It really truly is sad. I don't see how they can live with themselves ... He was only 4 for a month and two days. It's sad."
To mark the one-year anniversary of his death, Cornelius' family and friends drove in a procession on Saturday from 19th Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard to Rise Academy where they prayed and held signs hoping to bring as much attention as they could for Cornelius' case.
Wanda hoped the march would bring attention to Cornelius' case and compel anyone with information on the shooting to come forward and help them find justice.
Dozens of her family and friends rode in vehicles that traveled slowly on the boulevard and carried signs with Cornelius' pictures.
When they arrived at the school, they stood on the sidewalk and held up the signs with Cornelius' pictures at passing motorists.
Cornelius' teacher at Rise Academy, Monica Trevino, attended the rally. She remembered Cornelius as a smart and respectful student who loved talking about his grandparents.
On Cornelius' birthday in October, Trevino adorned toy dinosaurs and stuffed animals to the window outside his classroom. Below the display was a bench that was etched with Cornelius' name.
Wanda said memories of Cornelius get her through the day and the hope that someone will come forward with information about his shooting.
"(I get up) knowing that he would want me to get up," she said. "He's all over my house. I see him everywhere. Everywhere I go I see him. He's keeping me going."
Tiffany Carrington said she also feels her grandson's spirit in her home.
"My Christmas tree is Cornelius' tree ... I know his spirit is in my home," she said. "That's what gives me peace now."
Anyone with information on the case can call Crime Line at 806-741-1000.
This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Family remembers 4-year-old Lubbock child year after deadly shooting