Sheldon R. Innocent wanted to look his best for his family portrait. So, on Saturday he went to a Springfield barber shop for a haircut.
Innocent, a 24-year-old tech support worker from Wilbraham, had plans to sit for a picture at Sears the next day with his wife and year-old son, Xavier.
Innocent had bought new shoes and clothes and had gone to Bill Brown’s Beauty, Barbershop, and Supply because he liked the barber.
“He liked the way he cuts his hair,’’ said Emily Goines, Innocent’s mother, in a telephone interview. “He was excited about taking Xavier’s picture.’’
Just after noon on Saturday, as Innocent sat in the barber’s chair, Tamik Kirkland, a prison escapee out for vengeance, stormed in and fired at least 10 rounds, police said. He was aiming for and hit the barber, the father of one Kirkland’s enemies, law enforcement officials have said. But he killed Innocent, a man with no ties to the accused shooter and no criminal record, who was taking online business courses in the hopes of becoming an entrepreneur.
“It’s unreal,’’ Goines said yesterday. “He was doing something, trying to move up in life. . . . It’s unfair. Life is unfair.’’
Sergeant John Delaney, a spokesman for the Springfield Police Department, declined to identify the 48-year-old barber, who he said was in good condition. The shop on State Street does not have a listed phone number.
Kirkland was shot by police officers as he tried to flee, and is also recovering from his wounds. Delaney said Kirkland’s condition was upgraded to serious but stable.
It was unclear when Kirkland will be arraigned. “I don’t expect it to be soon,’’ Delaney said, noting that Kirkland was in the custody of officials from the state Department of Correction, who, with Springfield police, are guarding his room at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield.
Delaney said police continued to search for Trevin T. Smith, 30, of Springfield.
They have a warrant for his arrest on charges of being an accessory after the fact in Saturday’s shootings.
State Police and Department of Correction officials said they are continuing to investigate. Kirkland, 24, had been a fugitive for six days after escaping from MCI-Shirley, a minimum security prison.
After the shooting, he emerged from the trunk of a getaway car as authorities closed in, and he started firing. Bullets struck a state trooper and a police officer, both of whom were wearing protective vests. Those officers are receiving counseling and are on paid administrative leave. “They’re a little bit bruised, but physically, they’re fine,’’ Delaney said. “We hope to have them back on the streets soon.’’
About a year ago, Springfield began cracking down on barber shops that were operating without proper licenses. But Delaney said police had no reason to suspect anything illicit was happening at Bill Brown’s. “This guy was legitimate,’’ Delaney said. “He had just changed locations, and he had a good following. He wasn’t a problem.’’
Several law enforcement officials with knowledge of the case, however, have said the barber injured during the shooting is the father of a gang member feuding with Kirkland.
Kirkland’s mother had been shot recently in Springfield, and authorities suspect that incident may have led him — less than 40 hours later — to place a dummy in his bed and walk away from jail on April 25.
In search of his enemies, authorities said, Kirkland targeted the barber shop. Kirkland’s mother, during a brief phone interview yesterday, said she was fine but declined to comment further.
Innocent had been looking forward to a weekend celebration of his recent birthday, his sister’s 15th birthday, and his son’s first birthday.
The family planned to gather in South Hadley, where Innocent’s grandfather and his wife live. The couple had bought presents. There would be lunch. Cake. Afterward, the Innocents would go sit for their portrait.
“He was a really good big brother who didn’t deserve this,’’ said Alexandra Goines, his younger sister. “He was the best brother, dad, and son; and he was really smart.’’
The daughter of teachers, Emily Goines said she raised her son to love learning, even giving him the middle name Read.
“I told him he needed to be better. He needed to get an early start,’’ she said. “I wanted that for my son.’’
He met his mother’s wishes. He excelled at math and technology and bragged that one day he would build an android, Goines said.
Her three children’s friends growing up were often troubled youths who were drawn to their home because it was stable and loving, Goines said. Innocent was quiet but well-liked by his peers, she said.
“You know those people who have an old soul, an old spirit?’’ she said. “He just knew what he was doing. It seems like a lot of problem children just seemed to connect with him.’’
He graduated from Putnam Vocational Technical High School in 2005 and planned to join the Navy to see the world, she said.
Then he fell in love, Goines said. “He met a girl,’’ she said.
He stayed behind to provide financial support for his new girlfriend, who would become his wife, as she finished college.
Goines said they named their son after the Marvel Comics superhero Charles Xavier, the science genius and leader of the X-Men superheroes team.
Goines, who had spent the afternoon at a class for would-be foster parents, said she called her son about 5:30 on Saturday to finalize plans for the next day. He did not pick up. Then, Goines’s daughter called to tell her what had happened.
“He’s my baby . . . We talked every day,’’ she said. “I’m still expecting him to come into the room.’’