Mother shot by her child's father at Fargo restaurant ended relationship the night before, sister says
Lucia Garcia had broken up with Malik Gill and planned to move out the day he shot her and their baby boy at Plaza Azteca, according to her sister. A Snapchat video shows the couple inside the restaurant before the shooting.
FARGO — Jessica Lopez Garcia assumed Lucia Garcia would forever be her “partner in life.”
The sisters had always been close and having babies born just a few months apart, they looked forward to sharing the joys and challenges of parenting.
But Lucia Garcia, 21, was taken too soon, shot in the chest by Malik Gill, 24, the father of her baby at a Fargo restaurant where they’d gone for lunch on May 18.
She died this week, having suffered significant brain damage during the time her heart stopped after the shooting.
Her baby, 7-month-old Dominique, was struck by gunfire but will make a full recovery.
Gill died by suicide a few hours after the shooting.
The couple’s relationship was rocky at times during their two years together.
An arrest warrant was out for Gill on charges of domestic violence and simple assault for a previous incident, in which he was alleged to have shoved Lucia Garcia to the ground and grabbed her by the throat.
Lopez Garcia said the night before the shooting, her sister apparently told Gill she was leaving him and that she and the baby would move out of the apartment they shared.
The move was expected to happen after her shift at a local child care center that day, according to one of Lucia Garcia’s co-workers.
Fargo police detectives are still investigating and still have Lucia Garcia’s cellphone, her sister said.
One unknown is how Gill obtained the gun used at the Plaza Azteca restaurant.
After a felony conviction in Minnesota from a pistol-whipping at a party in 2020, he should not have been able to possess a firearm.
Lucia Garcia had previously told her sister that Gill had multiple guns; Lopez Garcia said the gun used might have been one “he just never got rid of.”
'He kept pulling her back in'
The Garcia girls came to the U.S. from Mazatlán, Mexico in 2008 with their parents, who were looking for work.
Lopez Garcia was 12, sister Lucia was 7 and youngest sibling Katherin was 2. The family settled in Ottertail, Minnesota.
Lucia Garcia attended school in Battle Lake for a time but graduated from New York Mills High School in 2018, then attended Minnesota State Community & Technical College in Fergus Falls.
There, she studied early childhood education with plans to become a kindergarten teacher.
It was in Battle Lake that she first met Gill, but the two didn’t date until Lucia Garcia finished up in Fergus Falls, her sister said.
“After that, they just kind of quickly became a thing and in no time she was living in Moorhead with him,” Lopez Garcia said.
Lucia Garcia had a part-time job at Juniors Center for Children in Fargo, where she brought Dominique while she worked.
“She loved kids,” Lopez Garcia said.
Her sister also became “submerged” in her relationship with Gill and started seeing her family less often.
Lucia Garcia’s Facebook page said she was “engaged,” but her sister said she wasn’t aware of any formal engagement.
They knew the relationship could be rocky, but Lucia Garcia insisted on making it work for the baby’s sake.
Lucia Garcia also had compassion and empathy for Gill because of the difficulties he endured as a child in foster care, her sister said. The family told Lucia Garcia they’d support her no matter what, and she did try to leave the relationship several times.
“But I think in a way, he kept pulling her back in,” Lopez Garcia said.
Video from inside restaurant
The day Lucia Garcia was shot, she and her son were supposed to move into a co-worker’s apartment, her sister said.
She was scheduled to work at the child care center that afternoon but didn’t show.
The family believes Gill may have taken Lucia Garcia’s cellphone at some point, because when a co-worker texted to ask why she was late, there was no response.
When the co-worker followed up with a text about getting food later for their work break, the answer back was a flat “no.”
“Her co-worker said that felt odd to her and she just didn't think that was her replying back,” Lopez Garcia said.
It's believed the three were at Plaza Azteca at the time of the text.
Lopez Garcia said there is a short Snapchat video Gill took inside the restaurant moments before the shots were fired at 1:45 p.m.
It shows Gill receiving a shot of liquor at the table, and the camera pans to Lucia Garcia, who her sister said looks uncomfortable, unhappy, maybe even distraught.
“I don't know at that point if she knew he had the gun,” Lopez Garcia said.
She wonders whether Gill shot Lucia Garcia because he feared she was going to prohibit him from seeing their son, something she would never have done.
She 'gave her life' for her son
Lopez Garcia has also seen the surveillance video from outside Plaza Azteca that shows Lucia Garcia trying to escape the attack.
“Essentially I saw my sister running for her life, holding her son in her arms until she dropped,” she said.
Difficult as it was to watch, she can knowingly tell Dominique someday that his mother gave her life for him, she said.
Funeral arrangements for Lucia Garcia are unknown at this time because an autopsy still must be done due to the nature of her death.
Dominique is out of the hospital and recovering at the home of Lopez Garcia and her husband in Perham, Minnesota, along with their 5-month-old baby daughter and older daughter.
A drain put in place where a bullet went clear through his left abdomen was removed Thursday, along with the stitches, she said. His left index finger, almost blown off by a bullet, has been surgically repaired, although doctors say there will be residual nerve damage.
Their plan is to raise Dominique jointly with Lopez Garcia’s parents.
She said the family won’t tolerate resentment or hate in the boy’s life in the future, no matter these circumstances.
“He will know love … and he will know that his mother loved him very much,” she said.
Leaving an unsafe relationship
The advice below on how to leave an unsafe relationship is from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services:
- Identify a safe friend or friends and safe places to go. Create a code word to let them know you are in danger without the abuser finding out.
- Keep an alternate cellphone nearby. Some domestic violence shelters offer free cellphones.
- Memorize phone numbers of friends, family or shelters in case your partner takes your phone.
- Pack items including birth certificates, Social Security cards, passports or immigration papers, health insurance cards and financial records and keep them in a safe place where your partner will not find them.
- Hide an extra set of car keys.
- Use a computer at a public library or a friend’s computer to download information. Your partner might be able to track your planning otherwise.
- For further help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).