Image: Metro Fire and Sheriff department personnel entertain a toddler
Paul Kitagaki Jr.  /  AP
Metro Fire and Sheriff department personnel entertain a toddler whose mother was fatally shot outside strip mall in Sacramento, Calif. on Dec. 14. A second victim died Wednesday from injuries suffered in the midday shootout.
updated 12/15/2010 6:23:02 PM ET 2010-12-15T23:23:02

A mother loading her 2-year-old son into a vehicle used her body to protect the toddler before she was shot and killed in an ensuing midday gunbattle at a Sacramento shopping center, sheriff's officials said Wednesday.

Monique Nelson, 30, had just strapped her son into his car seat when she was struck in the chest, and detectives believe she positioned herself to protect her son, Sacramento County Sheriff's Sgt. Tim Curran said.

"She was found with her body over the young child," he said. "So we believe she did hear the gunfire."

A second victim, 20-year-old Marvion Barksdale, also died from injuries suffered in the shootout after being taken to a hospital where he underwent surgery for a chest wound, Curran said. Five other men were injured in the gunfight. All are expected to survive.

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Nelson died at the scene, where Metro Fire and sheriff department personnel were seen attempting to entertain the toddler following the shooting. Her child was unharmed and has been reunited with family members, according to authorities.

Family members did not immediately return a phone message left Wednesday at their bookstore, where Nelson worked as a supervisor, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Nelson's brother, Richard Nelson, told the newspaper his sister was "bubbly, outgoing, always had a smile on her face."

He said her biggest passion was her son.

"All about her son. She loved her son dearly," he said. "She was a good mother."

Detectives believe at least one gunman entered the Fly Cuts & Styles barber shop just before 1 p.m. and began shooting. At least one person inside the shop returned fire.

Curran said the ensuing gunbattle transitioned to the parking lot. Detectives have recovered shell casings from four firearms, including one rifle, he told reporters Wednesday.

Curran said Nelson had visited a one-hour photo shop in the strip mall before briefly stopping into the barber shop to say hello to people she knew there. Curran described the barbershop as a "social gathering place" for many people, and the woman's brother, Richard Nelson, said she had her son's hair cut there.

Authorities are still investigating the crime and say they have no motive for the shooting. They said they have not identified which of the injured victims might be suspects.

Although it's likely gang members were involved, authorities do not believe the shooting was directly related to gang activity, Curran said.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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