PALMDALE (CBSLA.com) — A 16-year-old girl was killed early Sunday morning after a suspected drunken driver plowed his vehicle into an apartment complex in Palmdale, authorities said.
Shortly after 4 a.m., a deputy on patrol noticed the minivan inside the building at Avenue R East and 10th Street and reported it.
“The vehicle was embedded into the building and went into the bedroom of a 16-year-old girl who has passed away as a result of injuries from the accident as far as we can tell,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Lt. Ken Wright told KNX 1070’s Ed Mertz.
“She was my little sister. I just hope people who drink and drive … I mean … they are just causing pain for many families,” Yadira Mendoza, the victim’s sister, told CBS2’s Louisa Hodge.
Officials said the victim was declared dead at the scene. Family identified the deceased as Giselle Mendoza, a Palmdale High School student.
“He took a part of my heart,” said Yadira.
The victim’s father was also inconsolable.
“I’m destroyed now,” said Alberto Mendoza. “She lived here,” he said, patting his chest.
The suspect was identified by deputies as Roberto Rodriguez, 20, of Palmdale.
“He has been taken to the hospital to be treated for his injuries and will be booked for vehicular manslaughter,” the lieutenant said. “Preliminary investigation indicates he was under the influence of alcohol.”
Rodriguez is scheduled to appear in Antelope Valley Court on Tuesday, said officials.
Hodge also reported that several residents were evacuated pending a building inspection.
Picking up the story Sunday evening, CBS2’s Art Barron said Rodriguez lives just across the street from the victim and her family.
James Fisher King, an eyewitness said, “I saw a car coming down 10th, east, about 80-85 mph, and it didn’t stop or hesitate. Just right into the building. Boom.”
Fisher King saw the whole thing and called 911. He also helped detain Rodriguez until authorities arrived.
“You would hear her moaning, kind of, inside the wall. He went through two apartments,” said Fisher King.
A 14-year-old girl who lived in the adjoining apartment decided not to sleep in her room last night, or there may have been a double tragedy.
Earnest Davenport, the 14-year-old’s father said, “The car came through her bedroom as well but she was sleeping, thank God, on the couch.”
The mother of the suspected drunk driver made no comment as she left her home to see her son in jail.
Sunday evening, Mendoza’s family and friends held an emotional candlelight vigil outside their home.
KCAL9’s Jeff Nguyen said dozens of people huddled together to try to make sense of the tragedy. He reported that the victim’s father was so grief-stricken he was still barely able to speak.
The girl’s father was outraged and very outspoken upon hearing Rodriguez made his $100,000 bail.
“You have a lot of money,” he said, “and you spend money, and you come out. And forget it. Somebody died … it’s not fair.”
One of Giselle’s friends, Karen Mendoza, cannot believe her pal is gone.
“She was a really pretty girl,” Mendoza said, “She liked to draw a lot. That was her passion. She was always happy.”