gun violence

‘Do The Right Thing': Parents of 11-Month-Old Shot in Bronx Have Message for Gunman, Community

Her first steps, her first words — there have been so many milestones in the first year of little Catherine’s life but nothing more significant than surviving

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On the evening of Jan. 19, an 11-month-old child was shot in the Bronx as she sat next to her mom in the family car. A week later, that child — Catherine — is recovering and her mom and dad have a message they want everyone to hear.

Her first steps, her first words — there have been so many milestones in the first year of Catherine’s life but nothing more significant than surviving.

"She's really strong, resilient, and she's she's making amazing progress. I can tell you that she's making amazing progress," said mom Miraida Gomez. "She's responsive, she's opening her eyes and she's tracking her parents. She most calm when I'm present, so my finger is always at her disposal for her to squeeze. She's doing really well, as best she can be."

Gomez was with Catherine as the family stopped at the local pharmacy on East 198th Street and Valentine Avenue. The two were in the back seat of the car as the child's father, Gregory Arias, went into the store to pick up a couple of things.

"I fed her. She was like calm. And I kind of like snuggled into a corner when I heard the gunshots," Gomez said.

Police said a gunman was running after a target and fired multiple shots. One stray bullet went through the car window, hitting Catherine in the cheek and came out her brain. Gomez said there wasn't much sound, just "like a pebble hitting a windshield," so she didn't think much of it. But the damage was apparent the second she went to move Catherine.

"When I took the baby out of the car seat to try and hide behind the driver seat, that’s when I realized she was bleeding," the mother said. "There was some people that came out. They gave me a towel and said apply pressure to where the wound was. I didn’t know where it was because there was so much blood. And then I realized it was at the side of her face. I was applying pressure but then I saw my baby going in and out. She was losing blood, she was losing oxygen so I kept performing CPR on her."

Parents of the 1-year-old baby who was shot in the face by a stray bullet last week begged the shooter to do the right thing and turn himself into police. NBC New York's Marc Santia reports.

That's when Arias came out of the pharmacy, and discovered the heartbreak on Valentine street.

"As I’m on the phone with 911, I’m screaming bloody hell," Arias said. "Get somebody over here my daughter has been shot. She’s only 11 months old!”

Moments later, EMS and police arrive. At the hospital, when doctors took Catherine away and into surgery to work on her brain, that's what Gomez said was "the hardest moment."

"They just took her away from me. That moment, where she wasn't in my arms, was the hardest moment ever because we really don't know what's going on," she said. "They close the curtains and all I could think of was remaining calm and just staying steadfast in prayer that she'd be OK."

As the doctors did all they could to save Catherine, the family had an unexpected visitor: Mayor Eric Adams.

"I grabbed his hand and said if we are going to do anything, we are going to pray for my baby right now," Gomez said.

A week later, while detectives continue to work nonstop trying to get justice for Catherine, there have been no arrests and only a handful of tips.

“This person perpetrated a crime with reckless regard to anybody. It could have been anybody! Even if it wasn’t us we would still be hoping and praying this person was found," Arias said.

A little girl in the Bronx is spending her first birthday in the hospital after she was shot in the face by a stray bullet this week. NBC New York's Marc Santia reports.

Gomez had a message to the people who may have information about the gunman.

"I would tell them not to be afraid. I know that unfortunately street code is you would have a target on your back I want them to know they wouldn’t," she said.

Arias had a similar message for the gunman.

"Turn yourself in. Help everybody. Your conscience is going to kill you at the end of the day," said Arias. "Do the right thing. Your intention was not to hurt my child ... An 11-month-old, now a 1-year-old, has to live with this for the rest of her life. And it's not fair to us that you get to just freely walk around."

As Catherine makes incredible physical strides and begins to heal, mom and dad pray she will also help heal the city and make neighborhoods safer.

"There should be no such thing as at the wrong place at the wrong time. Unfortunately, it's the reality of things at this time. But we do believe that he will be found. We have a great team. Law enforcement has been amazing," Gomez said. "The mayor's been really good at advocating and going to where he was to go to make sure that the requests are being made so that these changes take place, so that we can live in a more safe environment."

Mom and dad believe Catherine will make a full recovery. The reward for information is at $10,000.

"She's a miracle. We are truly grateful for all the prayers and the outpouring of support," Gomez said.

"She's the city's baby," Arias said.

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