ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A man confessed to fatally shooting a 4-year-old girl while arguing with her father as the two men drove down a freeway, police said, without offering more details on what led to the apparent road-rage slaying.
Tony Torrez, 32, was arrested Wednesday and admitted shooting Lilly Garcia while she was riding in the backseat of her father’s pickup truck with her 7-year-old brother, police said. He has been charged with murder, assault, child abuse and other crimes.
The children’s father had picked them up from school Tuesday when someone in another vehicle opened fire on the family as they traveled on Interstate 40, Albuquerque’s main east-west freeway.
The father told authorities that he was trying to exit the freeway when a car forced him out of his lane, a police statement said.
“The two drivers exchanged words when Torrez pulled out a gun and shot at the red truck driven by Lilly’s father,” the statement continued. “Lilly was hit at least once in the head.”
The father pulled over and tried to give his daughter first aid as a bystander called 911.
In a roughly minute-long call released by police, a man alerts a dispatcher to a truck stopped on an I-40 median with “an adult holding an unresponsive child.”
Two nurses showed up and tried to save the girl’s life before an ambulance rushed her to the hospital, where she died, Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden said.
Authorities quickly began pressing the public for tips, offering about $25,000 for information leading 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.
With help from an anonymous caller and other tips from the community, detectives found Torrez, who “confessed to investigators he was responsible for the murder,” police said. He was being held on a $650,000 cash-only bond.
It was not clear exactly what led the incident to escalate, but the father told officers the shooting was the result of road rage.
The young girl’s death spawned an outpouring of sympathy nationwide. A GoFundMe account for funeral services and other expenses generated more than $64,000 since it was posted Tuesday. The hashtag #JusticeForLilly began showing up on social media.
At a news conference, the police chief released details of Torrez’s arrest and information about an unrelated shooting that evening that left an officer critically wounded. A man was later arrested in that case.
“For me, this is a terrible day,” Eden said.
He described an exhaustive search for a suspect in the road rage killing.
Albuquerque officers “have not stopped or slept,” the police chief said, in their search for the vehicle.