Published Friday, Nov. 2, 2018 | 7:58 a.m.
Updated Friday, Nov. 2, 2018 | 9 p.m.
Bullets that tore into a North Las Vegas house Thursday night, fatally wounding an 11-year-old girl in her kitchen, were not intended for her or her loved ones.
The family of five was caught up in a gang-related shooting it played no part in when a group intending to cause harm drove to Courtney Michelle Street, got out of a car and opened fire into what turned out to be the wrong house, North Las Vegas Police said.
The victim’s parents, both in their 30s, and her sisters, ages 6 and 14, were “in the line of fire” when an unknown number of bullets buzzed by, were uninjured, Assistant Chief of Police Pamela Ojeda said.
A neighbor who witnessed the pandemonium, and who was on his way to work, grabbed his legally owned gun and fired from his open garage into the fleeing car, a 2007 silver Nissan Altima, wounding one of the suspects, police said.
That suspect, a 19-year-old man, was found with a gunshot wound to the head in the front passenger’s seat of the alleged getaway car when it broke down less than 3 miles away near El Campo Grande Avenue and Commerce Street, police said. The driver, 17, was taken into custody.
The male teen called police saying his car had been struck by random gunfire and needed to get his friend to a hospital.
Detectives recovered one gun in the car, Ojeda said. Police were looking for multiple shooters, but did not provide possible descriptions.
Officers responded about 9:40 p.m. at a home in the 6700 block of Courtney Michelle Street, near Deer Springs Way and Lawrence Street, just south of the 215 Beltway, Ojeda said, noting she would not release details to preserve the "integrity of the investigation."
Police told the Associated Press that the vehicle stopped in the street and three people exited the backseat to open fire with handguns and shotguns at the two-story stucco home.
The good Samaritan who returned gunfire told police he “felt danger to himself and the community,” Ojeda said. He was not facing any charges.
“We can only imagine the heartache they’re feeling today,” Ojeda said in a Friday afternoon briefing about the grieving family. “No parent should have to deal with a tragedy like this.”
Police believe the shooters intended to target another house in the area in retaliation for an earlier gang dispute. Officer Eric Leavitt said officers did not find anyone at that house but were seeking the residents for questioning.
The driver was being held as a juvenile and was expected to be charged with multiple felony murder, attempted murder and conspiracy charges, Leavitt said. The wounded suspect faces the same fate if he survives.
As Friday afternoon turned to night, TV reporters lined up camera equipment in front of the house, going live on evening newscasts. One told the audience about the “heartbreaking” and “gut-wrenching” scene.
He was in part referencing the 17 bullet holes that spider-webbed the windows of an apparent dining room. Several others perforated the beige walls throughout both floors.
A family member of the young victim told KTNV Channel 13 that the entire family had been working on a science project in the kitchen when tragedy struck.
A memorial had popped up in front of the garage: balloons, stuffed animals, candles and flowers lay on the ground. A sunflower bouquet was accompanied with a note: “We love you Angie!”
A pair of North Las Vegas police officers watched from down the street.
Wearing sunglasses and carrying a glass candle with the image of Jesus Christ, a woman — who did not want to be identified citing fear of gang violence — said she and her girlfriend were watching TV in a nearby house when they heard “very loud, very rapid … super quick, loud noises. We knew it was not fireworks,” which she said were common in the neighborhood.
Then there was “nothing but silence,” she said. Less than 10 minutes later, “there was massive sirens.”
“This 11-year-old kid … it’s an innocent child. This shouldn’t happen, something more needs to be done with gang violence, violence in general, more needs to be done. This is a family just torn apart.”
The woman said she’s dealt with loss in her family, including her parents, but that she “can’t even imagine what they’re going through. I just can’t.”
She proceeded to the garage, crouched down, lay down the flowers and lit the candle before she walked away.
Another woman who held a baby and spoke from an adjacent house said she initially heard pops she confused for fireworks, and then “a lady started screaming.”
Terri, another neighbor, who only provided her first name, said she first heard an unusual screeching-like noise that sounded like a vehicle speeding off. “It was like the worst sound ever," she said. “I’ve never heard something so horrible.”
She then heard gunfire followed by a person screaming.
She commented about violence. “When you see it on TV, you don’t realize how bad it is.”
The case is being handled by homicide detectives and crime scene investigators, police said. A fugitive task force will be used when suspects are identified.
This was the third fatal shooting in North Las Vegas in less than a week in addition to an officer-involved shooting this week that left a suspect dead.
The shooting happened in a quiet neighborhood of large four- and five-bedroom single-family homes, some with swimming pools, built in 2006.
Ojeda urged members of the community who might know something about the case to speak up. “Do the right thing and contact the police.”
After the cameras shut off, a man accompanied a young girl who held flowers. He stayed on the sidewalk as she approached the garage, set the bouquet down and then skipped away.
Anyone with information is asked to call North Las Vegas Police at 702-633-9111. To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 702-385-5555 or crimestoppersofnv.com.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.