Mom shot dead by child’s father at Fargo restaurant ended relationship the night before, sister says – Grand Forks Herald
FARGO – Jessica Lopez Garcia assumed Lucia Garcia would be her “partner in life” forever.
The sisters were always close and had babies born just months apart. They looked forward to sharing the joys and challenges of parenthood.
But Lucia Garcia, 21, was kidnapped too soon, shot in the chest by Malik Gill, 24, her baby’s father, at a Fargo restaurant where they went for lunch on May 18.
She died this week after suffering significant brain damage during the time her heart stopped following the shooting.
Her baby, 7-month-old Dominique, was shot but will make a full recovery.
Gill died by suicide hours after the shooting.
The couple’s relationship was rocky at times during their two years together.
A warrant has been issued for Gill’s arrest on charges of domestic violence and aggravated assault over a previous incident in which he allegedly pushed Lucia Garcia to the ground and grabbed her throat.
Lopez Garcia said the night before the shooting her sister appeared to have told Gill that she was leaving him and that she and the baby were moving out of the apartment they shared.
According to a colleague of Lucia Garcia, the move was to take place that day after her shift at a local daycare.
Fargo Police investigators are still investigating and still have Lucia Garcia’s cellphone, her sister said.
An unknown is how Gill got the gun used in the Plaza Azteca restaurant.
After a 2020 felony conviction in Minnesota for a gun whip at a party, he should not have owned a firearm.
Lucia Garcia had previously told her sister that Gill had multiple guns; Lopez Garcia said the gun used may have been one “that he just never got rid of”.
“He kept dragging her in”
The Garcia girls came to the United States in 2008 with their unemployed parents from Mazatlán, Mexico.
Lopez Garcia was 12, Sister Lucia was 7, and the youngest sister, Katherin, was 2. The family settled in Ottertail, Minnesota.
Lucia Garcia attended school in Battle Lake for a time, but graduated from New York Mills High School in 2018 and then attended Minnesota State Community & Technical College in Fergus Falls.
There she studied early childhood education with the aim of becoming a kindergarten teacher.
It was in Battle Lake that she first met Gill, but the two didn’t meet until Lucia Garcia was done in Fergus Falls, her sister said.
“After that, they just kind of became a thing and before long she was living with him in Moorhead,” Lopez Garcia said.
Lucia Garcia had a part-time job at the Juniors Center for Children in Fargo, taking Dominique there while she worked.
“She loved children,” Lopez Garcia said.
Her sister also became “in hiding” in her relationship with Gill and began seeing her family less often.
Lucia Garcia’s Facebook page said she was “engaged,” but her sister said she wasn’t aware of any formal engagement.
They knew the relationship could be rocky, but Lucia Garcia insisted on making it work for the baby’s sake.
Lucia Garcia also had compassion and empathy for Gill because of the difficulties he endured growing up in foster care, her sister said. The family told Lucia Garcia that they would definitely support her and she tried to leave the relationship several times.
“But I think in a way, he kept pulling her back,” Lopez Garcia said.
Video from the restaurant
On the day Lucia Garcia was shot, she and her son were due to move into a colleague’s apartment, her sister said.
She was supposed to be working at daycare that afternoon, but didn’t show up.
The family believes Gill may have taken Lucia Garcia’s phone at some point because when a colleague texted to ask why she was late, there was no reply.
When the colleague texted me about the later meal for the work break, the answer was a resounding “no”.
“Her co-worker said that felt weird to her, and she just didn’t think she was responding to that,” Lopez Garcia said.
It is believed that the three were in Plaza Azteca at the time of writing.
Lopez Garcia said there is a short Snapchat video that Gill recorded in the restaurant just before the shots were fired at 1:45 p.m
It shows Gill getting a shot of alcohol at the table, and the camera pans to Lucia Garcia, who, according to her sister, looks uncomfortable, unhappy, maybe even distraught.
“I don’t know at this point if she knew he had the gun,” Lopez Garcia said.
She wonders if Gill shot Lucia Garcia because he feared she would forbid him to see her son, which she never would have done.
She “gave her life” for her son
Lopez Garcia has also seen the surveillance video from outside Plaza Azteca, which shows Lucia Garcia trying to escape the attack.
“Essentially, I watched my sister run for her life and hold her son in her arms until she fell,” she said.
As difficult as it was to watch, she may one day knowingly tell Dominique that his mother gave her life for him, she said.
The funeral arrangements for Lucia Garcia are not known at this time as an autopsy is yet to be performed due to the nature of her death.
Dominique is discharged from the hospital and is recovering with her 5-month-old baby daughter and older daughter at the home of Lopez Garcia and her husband in Perham, Minnesota.
A drain placed where a bullet went through his left abdomen was removed Thursday along with the stitches, she said. His left index finger, which was nearly ripped off by a bullet, was surgically repaired, although doctors say nerve damage will remain.
Her plan is to raise Dominique alongside Lopez Garcia’s parents.
She said the family will not tolerate any resentment or hatred in the boy’s life in the future, no matter the circumstances.
“He will know love … and he will know that his mother loved him dearly,” she said.
Leaving an insecure relationship
The following advice on leaving an unsafe relationship comes from the US Department of Health and Human Services:
- Identify a safe friend or friends and safe places to go. Create a code word to let them know you’re in danger without the perpetrator finding out.
- Keep an alternate cell phone nearby. Some domestic violence shelters offer free cell phones.
- Remember phone numbers of friends, family, or shelters in case your partner takes your phone with them.
- Pack items like birth certificates, social security cards, passports or immigration papers, health insurance cards, and financial records and keep them in a safe place where your partner can’t find them.
- Hide an extra set of car keys.
- Use a computer at a public library or a friend’s computer to download information. Otherwise, your partner may be able to track your planning.
- For additional assistance, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).