Desirae Macias and her sister were seated in the back of a car this week when gunfire erupted from a passing vehicle. The 7-year-old attempted to shield herself from the bullets. But one of them struck her in the back of the head.
Next to her, her 8-year-old sister was covered in her blood, alive, but traumatized. Desirae’s mother, who is studying to be a medical assistant, desperately performed CPR. Desirae is now on life support at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and is not expected to survive.
Meanwhile outrage is growing about the violence.
Prosecutors filed murder charges Friday afternoon against two brothers suspected of shooting the little girl. Jesus Alberto Peralta, 22, and Carlos Peralta, 19, face murder, attempted murder and gun charges.
If convicted, the brothers each face a maximum of 185 years to life in prison, prosecutors said. They did not enter a plea and could not be reached for comment.
The incident began Wednesday at a Mobil gas station in Palmdale. Desirae and her sister were in the car with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend. Authorities say the boyfriend was confronted by a group of men, among them the Peralta brothers.
Prosecutors allege the brothers “issued a gang challenge” to the boyfriend. The boyfriend, who authorities say had no gang ties, tried to walk away but the men continued to confront him.
The suspects “came out saying 'Don't be scared. Don't be scared’ and didn’t want to let them go,” said Desirae’s aunt Rose Galvan. “He said 'I have kids in the car. I have to go.' ”
Authorities say the boyfriend sprayed the suspects with pepper spray. He then jumped into the passenger seat and Desirae’s mother drove off with the kids in the back seat. The suspects allegedly followed, eventually opening fire on the car, officials said.
The suspects chased the car through residential streets as the family tried to evade the gunmen, officials said.
The family didn't realize the second-grader had been shot until after they arrived at home, Galvan said. She said authorities told her a bullet had ricocheted off a taillight and went through the backseat, hitting Desirae.
Desirae's mother tried to revive the girl on the sidewalk while neighbors called police. On Thursday, dried blood still stained the sidewalk.
Desirae’s family has received an outpouring support from the community.
“It sounds more like a bad television movie than something that we would think would happen in our community,” said Darren Parker, a longtime Antelope Valley resident and chairman of the Antelope Valley Human Relations Commission.
Desirae remained on life support Friday afternoon, said Lt. Larry Dietz of the Los Angeles County coroner's office. Dietz said she “will not survive” and that it’s up to her family to decide when to remove her from life support.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck has expressed shock over the incident. “It’s a tragedy,” he said Thursday. “Firearms are used far too often to settle minor disputes.”
Times staff writer Kate Mather contributed to this report.