A 13-year-old girl was gunned down in a brazen broad daylight drive-by shooting in Texas while walking home from school on Friday, police say.
Police identified the girl Saturday as Lauren Landavazo. Her friend, Makayla Smith, also 13, was seriously wounded, and is recovering in a local hospital, according to police.
A suspect, 20-year-old Kody Lott, was arrested Sunday.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Gunman Opened Fire With a Rifle From an SUV in a Quiet Neighborhood With Several Witnesses Watching, Police Say
Wichita Falls Police say the gunman opened fire from inside a pickup truck about 3:30 p.m. Friday in an alley on Kingston Drive, near the school where Laura Landavazo and her friend, Makayla Smith, were walking home from, the Times Record News reports.
He used a rifle, police said. Several witnesses, including other students walking home from school, were in the area, according to police.
“We’re going to work this until this is resolved,” Wichita Falls Police Chief Manuel Borrego told reporters, saying the shooting happened in a normally quiet residential neighborhood in the southwest part of the city. “It’s very tragic and heartbreaking that this involved two young people.”
More shots were heard about 5 p.m., but police have not confirmed if they were connected, the Times Record News reports. Two people were detained in that incident.
Smith was listed in stable condition on Sunday.
2. Police Say the Gunman Was a White Male, but Refuted Rumors the Shooting Was Racially Motivated
Police issued a statement Sunday to refute rumors that had spread online about the shooting being racially motivated. At least one website said the gunman was a white supremacist who was upset because Landavazo was friends with a black girl. The other victim is black.
“There has been a recent report show up on social media and other websites that makes references to the shooting. The statement claims that it was committed by a white supremacist who targeted the victims due to their race and friendship,” police said. “The WFPD wants to strongly refute that claim. There has been no evidence found to indicate such a motive.”
According to Wichita Falls CrimeStoppers, police were searching for an “early 2000 model GMC or Chevrolet champagne/gold colored SUV that was seen in the area.”
The CrimeStoppers organization has offered a $9,000 reward for information. Anyone with information can call 940-322-9888 or 877-322-9888 or text 274637 (crimes).
Reporters said that SUV was located on Sunday.
Police also served a search warrant at the Fountaingate Apartments, with several armed officers at the scene for most of the afternoon.
The apartment complex is close to the scene of the shooting, and is where Lott lives.
3. Landavazo Was a Student at a Local Middle School
Landavazo was a student at McNeil Middle School in Wichita Falls, according to the school district. Superintendent Michael Kuhrt issued a statement about the shooting:
Today after school there was a tragic off-campus situation involving two girls from McNiel Middle School. I am saddened to report that one of those girls passed away and the other is in guarded condition. Please know that the district is coordinating efforts to provide grief counselors for students. As soon as we have more information about those resources, we will pass that along to you. As a district, we are saddened by this senseless act of violence and our thoughts and prayers are with all of those involved.
Landavazo was remembered by the brother of the other victim, Tre’vion Elliott as being his sister’s best friend.
“They were always talking, whether through text message or Snapchat,” Elliott told the Times Record News. “From what I was told, they always walk home together. They walk to school together since they live in the same neighborhood, and they walk home together also.”
4. Fundraisers Have Been Started in the Community to Help the Families
Several local businesses and community members began collecting money Saturday to help the familes of Lauren and Mikayla.
Among them was the Wichita Falls Sam’s Club.
“This isn’t about Sam’s. It’s about the associates that gave their time to come out here and cook. Because there was a tragedy here in Wichita Falls, and it’s about the people that came together because of the tragedy,” assistant manager Bryan Givens told KAUZ-TV.
5. A Memorial Service Is Being Planned to Remember Lauren
A vigil is being planned for Sunday to remember Lauren Landavazo and pray for Makayla Smith, KAUZ-TV reports.
It will be held at 8 p.m. outside of McNeil Middle School.
Dozens of flowers and teddy bears were left at the scene of the shooting.
“I think it touches everybody, because it could have been anybody. To think that our kids can’t walk around in the neighborhood or in their yard from school, it’s crazy,” Emmanuel Carrillo told the Times Record News.