Police: Person detained in girl’s road rage killing

Mary Hudetz Associated Press

Albuquerque, N.M. — A person of interest was taken into custody Wednesday in a road rage shooting that killed a 4-year-old girl on a freeway in New Mexico’s largest city, police said.

Police said they would provide more information later on the break in the case. They have pleaded for the public’s help in finding a man they say opened fire on a pickup truck driven by Lilly Garcia’s father soon after he picked up her and her 7-year-old brother from school Tuesday.

The girl’s father drove onto Interstate 40 after the children climbed into the backseat, Police Chief Gorden Eden said earlier at a news conference. The assailant and the father, neither of whom have been identified, were heading west 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.

Police say they struggled with the initial investigation and search for the shooter 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.

Authorities are 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.”

He has called the shooting about an hour before the start of evening rush hour 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 Tuesday.

Mayor Richard Berry said Wednesday that the senseless slaying “cut to the core” of the community. The city is offering $20,000 for information leading to an arrest, while the FBI announced a $5,000 reward as the agency opened its own investigation.

Police worked with state transportation officials to post requests for tips on interstate billboards, Officer Tanner Tixier said. He did not know if detectives were able to collect shell casings or other ballistic evidence.

“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.”

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, and the father told officers the shooting was the result of road rage. The girl was rushed to the hospital, where she died.

Detectives interviewed multiple witnesses, Eden said.

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.