SAN ANTONIO – A father devastated by the recent loss of his 6-year-old daughter during a traditional family outing is sharing his side of what took place leading up to the fatal shooting.
Saryah Perez, 6, died the night of Mother’s Day while in her car seat at a car meet on the west side.
“She was so helpful,” said Julio Garcia, Saryah’s father. “She loved her family. Her little brothers were her world. She was always there to make you laugh. Every morning, she would say we were good parents and that she loved us.”
On Sunday, the family planned to attend the car club gathering, which they often did together.
“She would tell her dad, ‘Look at the wheels, dad! They’re big! Look at all of the lights,’” said Kassandra Mendoza, her mother. “She begged her dad to take her. That is what we did. She was there having fun enjoying herself.”
Garcia said the family just picked up snacks and drinks for the children to enjoy during the event. He said that, as they were leaving, things escalated.
“As we were leaving, we started driving off,” Garcia said. “We were seeing the cars. I was going to exit to the right, but there were so many cars, so I exited on the other side so the kids could see more cars on our way out.”
Garcia said, as he tried leaving, a black truck blocked him in.
“The driver saw that I was trying to leave, and he blocked me in and wouldn’t let me come through,” Garcia said. “I was able to go around it, but another car was in front of me, and before I knew it, people were banging on the left side of the car. They were hitting the left and right sides of the car. They opened my door, and someone hit me in the nose. I was bleeding.”
At that point, he said he knew he had to leave fast.
“All I could hear was my daughter and son saying, ‘Daddy, please leave I am scared.’ So my first reaction was to drive forward,” Garcia said. “I drove forward to reverse back, and I tried to do a U-turn, but they were still blocking me in. So I tried swerving through people. I saw a child, so I tried being very careful not to hit anyone.”
As he made his exit, Garcia said he heard four gunshots.
“Then I heard Kassandra say something hit her,” Garcia said. “My first reaction was that there is a bullet in the car. I pulled up to the store and got out to check on the kids.”
Garcia said that is when he realized Mendoza, who was grazed by a bullet, wasn’t the only one hit by gunfire.
“Kassandra was already out of the car,” Garcia said. “She put Saryah in her hands crying, saying she was hit. I saw so much blood. I thought it was coming from her neck. I couldn’t find where it was coming from. I tried CPR, but she was unresponsive.”
Sadly, young Saryah died that night.
“They knew my kids were in that car,” Mendoza said. “They knew I took my kids everywhere with me. I was not the only mother out there with their children watching the cars. Everyone had their children with them. They took my baby girl away from me.”
“I can never get her back again. I can never do her hair again. I can’t take her to school. She can’t be with her brothers no more,” Mendoza continued, sobbing. “She can’t say, ‘Mom, you’re the best! I love you,’ I will never hear that again. They took a big part of me away.”
The family said they always attended car club gatherings because they have always been non-violent and entertaining for their children.
“It is like a big family-like atmosphere,” Mendoza said. “Everyone comes together to have a good time. Now, I don’t want to take my children anywhere anymore.”
Andrew Elizondo was arrested and is now facing a capital murder charge.
Mendoza said though she is happy he is in custody, she will not give up until everyone involved is arrested.
“They are all cowards,” Mendoza said. “They don’t care for anything. They think people are afraid of them. I am not. There are going to be put away for what they did to my daughter. I will take this all the way where I need to. We were not there for anything else but to have fun. I don’t even care about me. I am doing this for my daughter. This is only the beginning.”
“I am angry. I am hurt,” Garcia said. “I want revenge, but I can’t because I know my daughter would tell me to do it the right way, to be safe. I can hear her say she loves me and to be smart.”