Two men were arrested in connection with the fatal shooting a 9-year-old girl who was playing outside her apartment in Anaheim, California, Wednesday in what police believe was a gang-related incident.
Ricardo Cruz, 19, of Buena Park and Alfredo Miguel Aquino, 20, of Anaheim, were arrested Friday around 11 p.m. on suspicion of murdering Ximena Meza while shooting at a group of men, according to the Anaheim Police Department.
"The investigation included a community meeting at Brookhurst Park, the interview of numerous witnesses, and the processing / collection of evidence," police said in a statement.
Preliminary evidence suggested two or more people drove down Greenacre Avenue from Crescent Avenue in a white vehicle around 7:15 p.m. near where Meza and her sisters were playing, police said. One of the men allegedly exited the vehicle and shot at a group of men in what police believe was a gang-motivated incident, officials said.
Meza was struck once in the chest after being "caught in the line of fire," police said. She was taken to a hospital where she later died.
The group of men fled on foot and the shooting suspect and vehicle sped away, investigators said. Authorities were eventually led to Cruz and Aquino.
“This is a large puzzle," Police Chief Raul Quezada said of the investigation. "We take the small pieces and put them together.”
The pair were arrested on suspicion of murder and are being held on $1 million bail. Both are documented gang members, police said during a news conference.
Balloons, stuffed animals and other items were left outside a residence Friday in memory of Meza, the oldest of three sisters whose family moved to the neighborhood about three months ago. School excellence awards for math, language arts and other achievements also were placed at the site of the shooting.