4-year-old Albuquerque girl shot dead in I-40 road rage attack

Updated: 10/21/2015 10:45 AM | Created: 10/20/2015 3:19 PM
By: Blair Miller,

ALBUQUERQUE -- A 4-year-old girl died Tuesday night after being shot in the head in what police called a road rage incident on I-40 near Unser.

The highway was shut down all evening and reopened just before 9 p.m. after being closed for almost six hours.

Police say they are searching for a maroon or dark red Toyota sedan and describe the shooter as a white male, possibly Hispanic, who has short, dark hair and a goatee. Crime Stoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for information and asks people to call (505)-843-7867. 

View: Suspect and Vehicle Info

"This should have never happened. This is a complete disrespect of human life, Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden said in an evening news conference. "We're starting to see this throughout our nation, and this is something that should not be happening in Albuquerque, New Mexico - let alone anywhere else in the United States."

"It's 100 percent preventable. It did not have to happen, and we need to rise up as a community and say enough is enough," Eden continued.

He urged witnesses to come forward, saying witnesses had thus far given conflicting information. 

"We are in desperate need of help to find this suspect," he said. 

"It's a terrible, tragic loss, and it shouldn't have ever happened," Eden continued. "This is one of those crimes which is unexplainable. There is no way to explain your way out of this."

The girl died after being transported to UNM Hospital after the shooting. Sources told KOB the family is from Albuquerque.

APD spokesman Simon Drobik said a Bernalillo County sheriff's deputy pulled up alongside a car that was stopped on I-40 around 3 p.m. and discovered the girl shot inside the vehicle. The girl's mother and father were also in the vehicle at the time, but were not injured in the shooting, which Drobik said stemmed from road rage.

"The dad explained there was some type of road rage incident. A car pulled up beside them and started firing rounds into the car," Drobik said.

Drobik said the two cars were traveling westbound on I-40 when shots were fired from one vehicle to another.

Drobik said it was unclear exactly where the shots were fired, but that police are investigating along I-40 from Coors to 98th Street.

The police spokesman told KOB they did have a description of the suspect's vehicle but had not located it as of 10:30 p.m.

Jonelle Tafoya says she was driving her daughter home around the time of the incident on a nearly-deserted I-40.

"We were actually behind the two vehicles that were in the middle of the road rage incident: red truck, red sedan," she recounted. "The red truck was not allowing the red car to pass [and] kept swerving from lane to lane to keep the vehicle behind them."

Fearing something bad was going to happen, Tafoya got off at Coors and dropped her daughter off at home. She later found out how the incident ended.

"I got the notification that something had occurred on my phone that a child had been shot in the head at Unser and I-40, and all I could think was, 'oh my God. That was it exactly. That was probably the road rage incident we had seen.'"

She shared her information with Chief Eden as soon as his news conference was over.

A red pickup truck was seen at the scene where the incident ended, but it is still unclear who was driving the truck during the incident.

There was a bullet hole in the truck's back windshield.

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