Speaking for first time about terrifying drive-by that injured son, Kansas City mom pleads for shooter’s arrest

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A 5-year-old boy injured in a drive-by shooting earlier this week is recovering and back in his Kansas City home.

The little boy's mother, Vanessa Sanchez, spoke for the first time about the terrifying night when she feared her son might not survive, in an exclusive interview with FOX 4 Thursday.

Sanchez hopes by sharing her family's story, it will inspire someone in the community who knows something to call police.

Her son Joel Pitayo, a kindergartener, was shot in the leg and buttocks Tuesday night inside his home on Denver Avenue. He was playing on a tablet in his bedroom when bullets flew through the walls.

“I figured he was scared because of the sound,” said Sanchez, who explained that hearing gunshots in their Northeast neighborhood is common. “Then that’s when I saw there was blood.”

“I saw his thigh was the first one [hit], and then I laid him down and I saw his butt cheek was also bleeding. And I immediately got my phone and called 911.”

Police soon shut down their street and determined it was a drive-by shooting, but detectives were unable to track down the person who pulled the trigger.

“I was kind of upset,” Sanchez said. “Wondering who, what, when, where, why? Why would they do this to my child? What did he do to deserve it? Why didn't it hit me?”

It's that last question – wondering why her little boy got shot and not her – that has since haunted Sanchez these past few days.

“Because a mother`s main objective as soon as she becomes a mom is to protect her children,” she explained.

“It`s always protect your child from anyone and anything. And to know that you`re in a position where you can`t do that because you`re out of control is really upsetting. It`s overwhelming.”

Sanchez doesn't know why anyone would want to hurt her family.

“I have so many scenarios going in my mind,” she said. “At one point, I was thinking, ‘Did someone intentionally want to hurt my family? Was it wrong house type of scenario? Was it, 'Let’s just do this for fun and see what happens?’ I just don’t know.”

Whatever the reason, she wants that person caught.

“I just want them to come forward,” she said. “They hurt an innocent child. Whether it was an accident or it was intentional, or they got pressured into doing it, they hurt my child.”

Thankfully, after a few days in the hospital, Joel is back home and expected to make a full recovery.

“I just thank God that it wasn’t anything serious and that he’s able to walk,” Sanchez said. “He’s fine. He’s alive, and he’s breathing.”

It’s something Sanchez calls a blessing, as she now shifts her focus to asking the community for help in getting the shooter off the streets.

“If you know something, say it,” she said. “Save another child. Save someone`s life, because the next time it probably won’t be just a little injury. It could be fatal next time. And I don`t want another mother to go through this.”

If you know anything, call Crime Stoppers at (816) 474-TIPS.