INDIO (CNS) – A young woman who allegedly took part in a confrontation at a Dollar Tree in Coachella, where an 18-year-old customer was pistol whipped and struck by gunfire multiple times pleaded not guilty to felony charges Wednesday.
Leah Lelani Lopez, 18, of San Jacinto, was charged with one felony count each of attempted murder and assault on a person causing great bodily injury, according to court records. She additionally faces a sentence-enhancing allegation of being armed with a firearm.
She pleaded not guilty to all charges Wednesday afternoon at the Larson Justice Center in Indio.
At about 3:30 p.m. Sunday, a Cathedral City resident inside the store was allegedly confronted by 21-year-old David Anthony William Garcia of Desert Hot Springs, who took out a firearm, according to Sgt. Jeffrey Barnett of the Cathedral City Police Department.
When the victim tried to lunge for the firearm, a fight ensued, according to Barnett. Lopez allegedly assisted Garcia in the fight, Barnett said.
“After fighting over the gun for approximately 2 to 3 (minutes), the suspects and victim reached a stalemate and agreed to stop fighting,” Barnett said in a statement. “The victim attempted to shake the suspect’s hand, but the suspect retrieved the gun out of his pants and attempted to shoot the victim at point blank range.”
Initially, the gun did not work and the two briefly fought over a magazine that fell out of the gun, according to Barnett. During the scuffle, the victim was pistol-whipped in the head and ran out of the store. As he ran out, Garcia followed and allegedly fired several rounds that struck him.
The victim was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries and is expected to make a full recovery, CCPD Sgt. Nate Hanley told City News Service.
Garcia and Lopez were identified as the suspects in the confrontation and shooting, Barnett said.
Marie Ashee Verest, 62, of Cathedral City, was initially identified as a third suspect, but the District Attorney’s Office did not file charges against her and she is now considered a person of interest, Hanley told CNS.
Lopez was being held at the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility in Banning on a $35,000 bail bond, according to inmate records. Garcia, who is alleged to be armed and dangerous, remains outstanding.
Anyone with information was asked to call CCPD Det. Sgt. Nate Hanley at 760-770-0328 or Coachella Valley Crime Stoppers at 760-341-7867(STOP).
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