A suspect who fired into a house, killed a 3-year-old girl and critically injured a pregnant woman and her toddler might have been angry that another resident of the home intervened in an assault earlier in the day, police said Tuesday.
Piecing together witness accounts, police believe that a man living at the victims' address saw the suspect assaulting another woman on Monday and got involved, allowing the unidentified woman to escape, said San Bernardino police Lt. Gwendolyn Waters. The suspect is the same man who later Monday opened fire on the home where the Good Samaritan lived, she said.
"That appears to be our motive — that somebody from that residence did a good thing and intervened and tried to save another woman from being assaulted," Waters said at a news conference.
Searching for suspect
Police are searching for the suspect, who they believe ran away, and want to speak to the woman who was assaulted and at least two other witnesses to the assault.
A 3-year-old girl, Nylah Franco-Torrez, was struck in the head during the shooting and pronounced dead at a hospital late Monday.
The pregnant woman and her 3-year-old daughter were in critical but stable condition on Tuesday, authorities said. The woman was shot in the neck and jaw and her daughter was shot in the head, Waters said. Police are not releasing the name of the woman, who is five months pregnant, or her daughter.
The fetus appears unharmed, Waters said.
The shooting at about 7:40 p.m. Monday marked the end of more than two months without a homicide in the sweltering hot desert city about 60 miles east of Los Angeles.
It was one of four shootings in the last 24 hours, an anomaly for a city that has seen its crime rate decline to its lowest level in a decade last year, said police chief Keith Kilmer.
Outside the mustard-colored house wedged between a tax service business and a boarded-up home, a makeshift memorial was set up with pink and white teddy bears, a baby doll and candles. Residents of the home declined to comment when approached by the AP.
Neighbors said an extended family lived inside the house. Waters said about a dozen people were home when the shooting occurred but the relationships among them were not entirely clear.
Frank Damian had just gone inside his house across the street to watch television when he heard the shots ring out Monday night.
"It went pow-pow, pow-pow-pow — it was about a good 20 shots," said Damian, adding that his wife grabbed the phone and called 911.
At a press conference Tuesday, police released a photo of Franco-Torrez wearing a blue-flowered sundress, her sad eyes looking straight at the camera.
Kilmer urged the public to come forward with any information that could help officers in their investigation and encouraged the suspect to turn himself in.
"We will find you, we will seek you out and we will arrest you and bring you to justice," Kilmer said. "We are going to be relentless."