A 12-year-old is being hailed as a hero after taking a bullet to the head while shielding her infant niece from a shooter — who was allegedly their next-door neighbor.
It was supposed to be one of the last days for Makayla Saulter’s family at their home in Bloomington, Minnesota. They were in the middle of moving items into a U-Haul truck on August 30 when the first gunshots rang out, Makayla’s aunt, Rev. Marcia Westbrook, said in a phone interview with .
The gunman, identified by police as the family’s next-door neighbor Jason Mesich, allegedly shot his wife dead over an argument about the amount of sex they were having before opening fire on the family, according to a uploaded by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office.
At first, the Saulters mistook the gunshots for fireworks, Westbrook said. Then Makayla’s older sister Canisha Saulter, 29, took a bullet to the leg, and the family scattered. Makayla and Canisha’s mother ran to the U-Haul and dragged Canisha inside it — though not before bullets pulverized her older daughter’s leg, hip, and ankle, Westbrook said.
Makayla, meanwhile, was not so lucky. She was holding her 1-year-old niece when the shooting started, and she barely had time to turn and start running when she was shot in the back of the head, TODAY Parents reports. Deputies found her in critical condition with the unharmed baby in her arms.
“She really saved her niece from getting shot, the way she was cradling her,” Westbrook told .
Mesich continued to shoot at the U-Haul, putting a bullet through one of its tires, before going back inside his house, Westbrook claimed. He allegedly confessed to shooting the family because they “were not good neighbors,” according to the criminal complaint.
However, Westbrook said Mesich and her family had rarely interacted in the three years they’d lived next to each other and they’d never had any major arguments.
The family suspects the attack may have been racially motivated.
“I’m gonna be outright honest. I wonder, does he not like Black people?” she told .
Although the police report alleges that Mesich killed his wife before attacking the Saulters, Westbrook claimed he shot her family first. She said two of her nieces saw the woman alive and watching them during the shooting.
Makayla and Canisha survived the attack and were both still in the hospital as of Tuesday. Makayla has undergone surgery on her skull and is expected to remain in the hospital for several months while she recovers.
“She’s a hero. She was going to protect that baby no matter what. She’s a protector,” Westbrook told TODAY parents.
Westbrook has set up a GoFundMe campaign to help cover medical costs. It had raised over $100,000 as of Tuesday.
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