A female victim who was found with a gunshot wound inside a crashed vehicle in San Pedro early Monday has been identified by her family as a 17-year-old mother of a young daughter.
Kayla Huerta's body was discovered in the car near the intersection of West Sepulveda Street and Cabrillo Avenue about 2:30 a.m. Authorities responded to the area after receiving reports of a traffic collision, said Los Angeles Police Department Sgt. James Talamage.
Officers arrived to find the light-colored car crashed into a cinder block wall outside an apartment building on the residential street.
But when they looked inside the vehicle, they discovered that the victim had been shot multiple times, including in the head, officials said.
Investigators were unsure, however, whether Huerta was killed in the vehicle or if she was brought to the location, according to LAPD Capt. Giselle Espinoza.
“We don't know if it was moving prior, or we don’t know at what point the shooting occurred,” Espinoza said.
Although the captain initially identified the victim as a 27-year-old Hispanic woman, LAPD officials later updated her age, saying she was 18 but did not provide her name.
However, grief-stricken family members who showed up at the scene hours after the fatal shooting identified Huerta as the victim, telling KTLA she was 17 years old and the mother of a 3-year-old daughter.
During a vigil held at the site later in the day, the teen's father, Jason Huerta, said he was struggling to come to terms with the violent nature of her death.
“I couldn’t even imagine her getting hurt like that," he said. "It hurts me.”
Yolanda Gonzalez, the victim’s grandmother with whom she lived in Wilmington, said the family was waiting to tell Huerta's child about her mother's death.
“She sees everybody struggling and she’s like, ‘What’s going on?’ But we can’t tell her, she’s too small,” Gonzalez said.
When she woke up Monday morning, the toddler asked for her mother and refused to take off her clothes because her mother had put them on, the grandmother said.
Huerta had spent the day with her family on Sunday, and they also have many questions about what led to her death, relatives added.
“We have no idea, no clue, no nothing. When I got the call I was so—" Gonzalez told KTLA before breaking down in tears.
Huerta was still in high school; after graduating, she planned to go trade school to support her daughter, according to a GoFundMe campaign set up by her cousin to pay help pay funeral costs.
In addition to a daughter, Huerta leaves behind a younger sister and two little brothers. Her sister, Jasmyne, said she and Kayla were incredibly close.
“I just feel like this is a dream because me and my sister always had plans together. And I just don’t want her to go, but she’s already gone," she said during the vigil. “I know that she wouldn’t want me to cry right now, but I have to because I’m going to miss her a lot.”
Jasmyne also expressed confusion over the senseless violence that claimed her sister's life.
“I just wish that they were gone instead of my sister, because why would they want to take my sister away from our family?" she asked of the assailants.
Huerta's aunt Irma said the family did not have money saved for a funeral and other costs since she was so young and her death was so sudden.
"She was so young, we didn’t really expect anything," she said, as she broke into tears. "But now we see that we’re never promised tomorrow."
Irma described her niece as "really kind" and "lovable," saying she liked to spend time with family and was close with her daughter.
"She was a really good person," Irma said. "I don't know who would do this to her."
Police do not have a description of the shooter, and investigators are searching the area for any possible surveillance video.
A motive was also not immediately unknown.
KTLA's Marissa Wenzke and Erika Martin contributed to this story.