Nylah Franco-Torres, 3, was shot in the head and pronounced dead at the hospital.
Fourteen-year-old Destiny Hull spent Tuesday morning mopping up dried blood from her grandmother's front porch, stains from an evening that began with an act of kindness and ended with an apparent act of vengeance that left a small girl dead and a pregnant woman and her young daughter seriously wounded.
The series of events in San Bernardino began Monday evening when a Good Samaritan who lived in the house — police won't say who for fear of tainting possible eyewitness accounts — saw a man beating a woman down the street, charged in and broke up the fight, allowing the woman to escape.
An hour later, the woman's attacker came to the male Good Samaritan's home and opened fire. Destiny's sister, who was five months pregnant, was shot in the jaw and neck, and bullets hit Destiny's two 3-year-old nieces in the head.
Destiny, overwhelmed by tears and fits of anger at the invading news cameras, stayed home from school to help clean up.
"I just can't believe this happened," she said, scrubbing the blood away from the porch, where the walls were pocked with bullet holes.
The shooting outraged residents of the working-class neighborhood. A large extended family lived in the home of Sophia Cardona, the matriarch who was inside cleaning and cooking tacos when she heard the shots.
Her grandson ran to the porch, scooped up the wounded children and drove them to the hospital.
"Whatever happened … was cowardice. He knew what he was doing and was trying to hurt someone. But he didn't have to hurt the children," Cardona said, breaking down in tears. "We lost one of our babies."
San Bernardino Police Chief Keith Kilmer called the shooting "tragic, senseless and despicable" and vowed to catch the killer.
"We will find you, we will seek you out and we will bring you to justice," Kilmer said at police headquarters, six blocks from where the shooting occurred.
The attack was the deadliest of four shootings overnight and through the morning in San Bernardino, a blue-collar town that for the last five years has worked feverishly to erase its image as a city with one of the state's highest levels of violence, attributed, in part, to an influx of L.A. gang members.
In the 1990s, the police officers association hawked "Murder City" T-shirts to raise money for a police memorial. But violent crime has dropped 40% since city voters approved a half-cent sales tax increase in 2006 for anti-crime programs.
"Just this week, I was talking to the police chief about the fact that we've had a remarkably peaceful summer in our fair city — 66 days of no homicides," Mayor Patrick Morris said. "And then the explosion came last night, and it was beyond tragic."
"Today, we'll come together as a city and find justice for this family," he added.
Cardona's neighborhood is one of many scarred by the crushing years of recession in the Inland Empire. The windows of the house next door are boarded up with plywood, and a "for sale" sign is posted on one. Empty shops dot the nearby retail strips.
"It's a bad area, it's a very bad area, and it's getting worse," said Janie Lopez, 58, who lives in an apartment across the street from the shooting site.
Lopez said Cardona's front patio is often crowded with family, and on occasion, she's seen police at the home.
Police spokeswoman Lt. Gwendolyn Waters confirmed that there have been "criminal issues at that house over the years," but emphasized that detectives believe this shooting was unrelated. "This was someone who was just trying to do a good deed," Waters said.
Police declined to release specifics about who they believe was the intended target of the attack other than to say that the gunman knew the Good Samaritan lived at the house.
The shooting happened about 7:45 p.m. Monday as the family was about to sit down for dinner and the kids were playing out front. The next morning, dolls were still lying on the concrete porch, along with three empty 40-ounce beer bottles.
Nylah Franco-Torres, 3, was shot in the head and pronounced dead at the hospital. Cardona said her great-granddaughter was a joyful child who didn't deserve such a violent fate.
"She was a sweet little girl. She loved going to the store. She was happy," Cardona said. "The first thing she did in the morning was turn on the TV and watch cartoons."
Cardona said her granddaughter La-Donna Howie, 21, and Howie's daughter Justine were the others wounded. Howie, who is five months pregnant, was listed in stable condition at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton. Her unborn child was unharmed and in good condition, police said. Justine was in extremely critical condition at Loma Linda University Medical Center with a head wound.
Police described the suspect as a black man in his early 20s, about 6 feet tall, weighing 160 to 170 pounds, with short dark hair.
"I'm concerned that maybe this man will not be found," Cardona said. "But we will keep going."