ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Police detained a man on Wednesday in connection with the road-rage killing of a 4-year-old girl who was shot in the backseat of her father’s truck after he picked up her and her brother from school, signaling a possible break in a case that has horrified the public.
Albuquerque police would not say if they believe the person of interest taken into custody is the shooter, but they said he matched the description of the gunman. His name was not immediately released.
Four-year-old Lilly Garcia was riding in the backseat of her dad’s truck with her 7-year-old brother Tuesday when someone in a Toyota opened fire on the family as they traveled down the main east-west freeway in Albuquerque. The father quickly pulled the truck into the median and tried to administer first aid on his daughter as a bystander called 911 to report “an adult holding an unresponsive child.”
Two nurses showed up and tried save the girl’s life as ambulances arrived and rushed her to the hospital, where she died, Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden said.
Authorities quickly began pressing for tips, offering roughly $25,000 for information that leads to the arrest of the shooter, who was driving a newer-model maroon or dark red Toyota Corolla or Camry with a spoiler on the trunk and dark tinted windows. The car also had a University of New Mexico license plate.
Details about a suspect, described as in his mid-20s or early 30s, emerged after police investigated more than a dozen leads, Eden said.
Albuquerque officers “have not stopped or slept,” the police chief said. “Every officer in law enforcement in New Mexico is currently looking for the vehicle I described.”
Albuquerque police say the person of interest taken into custody near the shooting site matches the description of a man with short dark hair, a thin face and goatee.
Police are seeking a warrant to search an Albuquerque home and car as part of their investigation, Officer Tanner Tixier said.
The person of interest was detained not long after police issued a public appeal for help to identify and find a suspect in the shooting.
It’s not clear what led the incident to escalate, but the father told officers the shooting was the result of road rage.
Mayor Richard Berry said Wednesday that the slaying “cut to the core” of the community. Police worked with state transportation officials to post requests for tips on interstate billboards, Tixier said. He did not know if detectives were able to collect shell casings or other ballistic evidence.
Shortly after the shooting, a Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputy pulled up to a vehicle he believed was in distress and found the wounded child inside, police said. The child’s father and brother were not injured.