ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Immediately after he shot at a red Dodge truck on Interstate 40, Tony Torrez told police he knew he had made a mistake.
“I shot at him,” Torrez told detectives after he was arrested. “I didn’t know anyone was in the car. I swear to God, I didn’t know anyone was in that truck.”
Torrez, 32, is accused in the road rage shooting of 4-year-old Lilly Garcia as she sat in the back seat of her father’s truck on Oct. 20. Lilly was taken to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where she died.
The Albuquerque Police Department on Monday afternoon released audio interviews with Torrez and Alan Garcia, Lilly’s father, and 911 calls. The interviews detail the moments leading up to the shooting.
Torrez told detectives he was driving on I-40 when Garcia’s truck “came out of nowhere” and cut him off.
“He got in front of me,” Torrez said. “He stomped on the brakes again and I swerved. I fishtailed and almost lost control. That’s when I shot at him. I didn’t look, I didn’t aim. It was just a warning shot to say get away from me.”
Then, he said, he saw the truck pull into the median.
“All of a sudden, he just pulled over at the side of the road,” Torrez said. “I started thinking, what if I shot somebody? What if someone was hurt?”
The someone who was hurt was Garcia’s young daughter.
Lilly’s death reverberated around the city and country. Money poured into the Garcia family’s crowdfunding account and fundraisers were held around the city. Hundreds attended a public vigil for Lilly, and mourned at her visitation and funeral.
Last week, Gov. Susana Martinez, Mayor Richard Berry and APD announced “Operation Lilly” to target aggressive drivers. The multiagency initiative will pay officers overtime to watch for speeding or other reckless behaviors over the next three months. Martinez urged drivers to “just breathe” and said officers would hand out placards to drivers to encourage them not to make angry gestures.
During Garcia’s first interview with police, officers tried to reassure him that his actions before Lilly’s death were not to blame.
“This is Albuquerque – road rage happens constantly,” the unnamed officer said. “People constantly cut people off, people constantly honk. Every now and then, people will swerve over or something crazy like that. There’s no way you could have known.”
In his interview with detectives, Garcia said he had picked up Lilly from her second day at the Duranes Elementary preschool program. They pulled over to the side of the road to watch the hail and rain from inside his truck because Lilly was scared, Garcia said.
Then they picked up her 7-year-old brother from school and merged onto I-40 at Rio Grande
He said that as he was trying to exit on southbound Coors, Torrez cut across his lane to continue traveling westbound on the interstate. He said he swerved out of the way, gestured rudely at him and called him a “(expletive) idiot.”
“I had to get out of there,” Garcia said. “I didn’t want my kids to get hurt. I knew I could have taken him because he was a smaller car, but I didn’t want to get in a car accident. That’s why I swerved, because my kids were in the car.”
Then, he said, Torrez got in front of him and hit the brakes. Garcia sped around him.
“That’s when I heard the first shot,” Garcia said. “I remember looking in my mirror and he was behind me.”
Garcia’s son said, “She’s bleeding,” and he realized his daughter had been hit. Three more shots rang out, he said, and a bullet hit the door near where his son sat.
Garcia provided a detailed description of the alleged shooter and his car, and, less than 24 hours later, an anonymous tip pointed APD to Torrez. He was arrested after leaving his Southwest Albuquerque home.
Torrez told detectives he had planned to turn himself in.
“I took a shower,” he said. “I had a bag of snacks because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to eat. I was on my way down here. I was going to go to an attorney’s office, pay him and have him take me over here.”
When they executed the search warrant, detectives said, they found his car and the gun used in the shooting in his garage. Torrez has pleaded not guilty to murder and lesser charges, and remains in the Metropolitan Detention Center. His trial is set for October. He also faces federal marijuana trafficking charges.