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Arlington police arrest 21-year-old man after 4-year-old boy died overnight New Year's Day

The boy was from Corsicana, according to official records.
Credit: WFAA

Updated at 9:00 p.m. with additional details from police.

A 4-year-old boy died early New Year's Day after he was shot around 12:30 a.m., Arlington police said.

Later in the day, Zantyler Foster-Hooks, 21, was arrested and charged with manslaughter in connection to the boy's death. 

Credit: Arlington Police Department

Officers said they found a "blood trail at a nearby apartment" when responding to a shooting call at an apartment complex early New Year's Day on the 700 block of Washington Drive.

They went into an unlocked apartment and found what police described as a "crime scene" inside, though no one was there. 

Grand Prairie police then contacted Arlington police to alert them a 4-year-old boy had been taken to a local hospital for a gunshot wound to the head and had died, officials said.

His name was Messiah Taplin and he was from Corsicana, according to official records.

"Detectives believe that the child was shot while inside the apartment," Arlington police said in a news release.

Officials believe there were four adults, two men and two women, in the apartment with the child at the time. All four spoke with police. 

Two of them initially told police that celebratory gunfire came into the apartment and hit the boy, but police "were able to debunk that story pretty quickly" using ballistic evidence, Lt. Christopher Cook told WFAA.

As police continued to speak with them, Cook said they were able to figure out that one of the men inside the apartment who lives there with the child, Foster-Hooks, was involved in the shooting.

"He claims that they were dancing, celebrating New Years, he had his gun out. It accidentally went out and struck the child in the head," Cook said. "They panicked, they went to a Grand Prairie hospital. It’s our belief they probably went there to kind of avoid the perception that they live in Arlington."

According to an arrest warrant affidavit for Foster-Hooks, he told police he had the gun out to mimic a rap video he and the child had been watching. He said he thought the gun was empty until it discharged and the boy was hit by the gunfire.

"Very sad and tragic case that could’ve been completely avoided," Cook said. 

Officials said they do not know the exact relationship between the boy and the adults but did say they believe he was living with them at the apartment, while his biological mother lives outside the area. Foster-Hooks had told police that while he is not his biological father, the boy was his son, according to the affidavit.

Police are asking anyone with any information to contact Det. Charles Cisneros at 817-575-3169. Those who wish to remain anonymous can also call Tarrant County Crime Stoppers at 817-469-8477. 

WFAA Digital Producer Jennifer Prohov and WFAA Digital Reporter Jay Wallis contributed to this report.