ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Albuquerque officials appealed for the public’s help and offered $11,000 in rewards Wednesday as authorities search for a man they say killed a 4-year-old girl in a road rage shooting.
Mayor Richard Berry said the senseless slaying of Lilly Garcia “cut to the core” of New Mexico’s largest city and urged people to call authorities with tips about the shooter. In addition to the mayor’s $10,000 reward, police are offering $1,000 for information leading to an arrest.
“The Garcia family is in the thoughts and prayers of our community and our nation,” Berry said in a statement. “Make no mistake; this act of violence will not go unanswered. The Albuquerque Police Department will work tirelessly with other law enforcement agencies to bring this criminal to justice.”
Police say they struggled with the initial investigation and search for the assailant Tuesday because of a storm that swept over the Albuquerque area soon after the shooting, witnesses’ varying descriptions of the suspect and a crime scene that could span 2 miles.
Police Chief Gorden Eden has described the shooting about an hour before the start of evening rush hour as an unexplainable crime brought on by road rage. Interstate 40 would have been heavy with traffic at the time, he said.
“We need the community’s help. You had to have seen something. Please call us,” Eden said.
Detectives believe the shooter in his mid-20s or early 30s was driving a recent model maroon or dark red Toyota Corolla or Camry with a spoiler on the trunk and dark tinted windows, Officer Tanner Tixier said. The car also had a University of New Mexico license plate.
Tixier did not know if detectives were able to collect shell casings or other ballistic evidence from the scene. Police were working with state transportation officials to post requests for tips on interstate billboards, he said.
“We are putting out a full court press on this one,” Tixier said. “It’s definitely a very difficult scene to work, not only emotionally because a 4-year-old died. … There are lots of things that really affected our evidence collecting that have been outside our control.”
The assailant and the girl’s father, who was driving a pickup truck, were heading west near the city’s west side when one car pulled up to the other and the shooter opened fire, police said. It’s not clear what led the incident to escalate.
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 parents were not injured, and the father told officers the shooting was the result of road rage.
The girl was rushed to the hospital, where she died.
“This is one of those crimes that is unexplainable,” the police chief said. “It’s 100 percent preventable. It did not have to happen. We need to rise up as a community and say enough is enough.”
Detectives were interviewing multiple witnesses, Eden said.
“Our priority is always the collection and preservation of evidence,” he said. “We should never see these incidents happen.”
The shooting comes after a road rage shooting last month in which police say a man fired at another driver in self-defense. Prosecutors were reviewing the Sept. 9 shooting that wounded 34-year-old Jacoby Johnson.
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