The announcement Friday of an arrest in the fatal Phoenix road rage shooting of a 10-year-old girl in her family’s driveway was of little comfort to her grieving parents.
Taniesha and Dharquintium Brown, who was also wounded, said they were thankful someone was in custody but that nothing would bring back their daughter, Summerbell. Her death started because of something “senseless,” they said.
“I hope that he suffers as much as we do,” Taniesha Brown said as she stood outside her home, steps away from their car, which had several bullet holes. “Not only did he ruin our lives, he ruined his life as well. He’s going to have to live with this the rest of his life — if he has a conscience.”
Police arrested Joshua Gonzalez after receiving a tip from the public. Gonzalez, 20, has an “extended criminal history” involving violent crime, said Police Chief Jeri Williams, who declined to disclose details.
Williams credited tips from the public with helping investigators.
“Our investigators were able to really close this case because the community members stepped up,” she said.
Gonzalez was arrested about 5 miles (8 kilometers) from the family’s home.
The couple said they were on their way home Wednesday evening after picking their children up from the Boys & Girls Club when they noticed another driver closely behind them. When they pulled into the driveway, Dharquintium Brown went to confront the suspect. Taniesha Brown said she made eye contact with the driver and that’s when the shooting started.
She saw her husband was bleeding profusely and then looked in the backseat. Their 12-year-old daughter was not injured but Summerbell, who had been sleeping, clearly was.
“All I heard was her gasp out of her sleep. She was just shaking and she was trying to breathe,” Taniesha Brown said. “Then she fell over and that’s when I noticed the bullet hole in her back. She was just gasping for air.”
Paramedics tried to resuscitate her.
“They pronounced her dead at the hospital but I knew she had died right in front of my eyes,” Dharquintium Brown said.
Police have said the suspect believed the family’s car had cut him off.
After the killing, authorities made surveillance video public showing the suspect driving a white pickup truck while following the family’s vehicle.
Police found the pickup truck Thursday with its wheels changed and obtained a search warrant that led to the discovery of a handgun in a garage. Forensic evidence linked the gun to Summerbell’s killing, police spokesman Vincent Lewis said.
Taniesha Brown believes that Gonzalez altered the car’s appearance because he panicked at finding out there were children in the car.
The family planned to hold a vigil Friday night in front of their home. Summerbell, who also went by Summer, was a fifth-grader who loved dancing, singing and gymnastics. She loved school and made the honor roll every quarter, according to her mother.
“She was a wonderful, wonderful baby,” Taniesha Brown said.
At his initial court appearance Friday, Gonzalez was ordered held on a $1 million cash-only bond. He is facing one count of first-degree murder, three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and one count of tampering or destroying evidence.
Clare Schum, his court-appointed attorney, did not comment when reached by telephone.
A GoFundMe has been set up to help the victim’s family pay for funeral expenses. More information can be found here.