A beloved teen, who was killed in her sleep when an SUV plowed into her bedroom at an apartment building in Southern California Sunday, was remembered by friends and school officials.
Grief counselors were on the Palmdale High School campus Monday to help those who knew 16-year-old Gisselle Mendoza, a sophomore at the school, come to to grips with what happened.
"She’s a student like any other student here who had her whole world in front of her and she started to, I think, get a vision of what she wanted," Matt Anderson said, the school’s principal.
A vigil started Sunday night with candles, flowers and photos of the girl placed outside her home.
Emergency personnel responded around 3:50 a.m. Sunday to reports of a vehicle into a building near Avenue R and 10th Street in Palmdale, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
Mendoza was pronounced dead when firefighters arrived at the apartment, officials said. Officials said she likely died on impact.
Authorities arrested 20-year-old driver Roberto Rodriguez on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. Preliminary reports indicated that his blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit, sheriff's officials said.
A friend of the family stood outside her home Monday with a sign that read, "Alcohol Kills."
Two affected units of the apartment complex were evacuated after the Nissan Pathfinder careened into the complex.
Rodriguez faces charges of DUI and vehicular manslaughter. He was released on $100,000 bail Sunday night and was due in court Tuesday, April 22.
At the time of his release, Rodriguez expressed condolences to the family, but would not respond to NBC4's questions over whether he was drinking or what caused the deadly crash.
“Sincerely, I’m sorry. It wasn’t my intention. Just, I'm sorry," Rodriguez told NBC4's Gadi Schwartz.
Mendoza’s grieving family members said they want justice. The father said it seemed too soon that Rodriguez had been released.
"Me and my brother loved her so much,” said the girl’s sister, Yadira Mendoza, as she struggled to hold back tears. “She passed away and they couldn’t do nothing for her."
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. David Sauer said Rodriguez, pictured right, may have been driving home when he missed his turn.
"We just heard a witness who said that he estimated the speed to be about 80 miles an hour," Sauer said.
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About half of the 11-unit complex was eventually evacuated due to leaking fuel, officials said.
Residents would be allowed to return once the SUV was removed from the building.
A fundraiser was set up online to help Mendoza's family pay for funeral costs.