Sam Avila’s windshield “exploded” Tuesday night in Citrus Heights, California, shortly after she heard a “pop, pop, pop,” Avila told FOX 40.
Avila was caught in the crossfire of a shooting around 7:30 p.m. near Sunrise Mall in suburban Sacramento as she was driving with her 3-year-old son, according to the TV station. In the aftermath of the gunfire, Avila said she was first worried about her son, FOX 40 reports.
“That split-second it takes for you to turn your head around, look behind you, it was just awful because I didn’t know what I was going to see,” Avila told CBS13.
Avila checked and her child was safe, CBS13 reports. But then she saw that strands of her hair had been ripped out and were sticking out of her head rest, which had a bullet hole in it, FOX 40 reports. Beyond the lost chunk of hair and cuts from the shattered glass, the mother and son weren’t seriously hurt, CBS13 reports. Aliva said the bullet was half an inch away from threatening her life, according to CBS.
“I feel like God is what saved me,” Avila told FOX 40. “I don’t know how it missed (my son) but thank God it did.”
Citrus Heights police identified the gunman involved in the Sunrise Mall-area shooting as Grasyon Schuessler, 26, of Orangevale, and said he was on probation after a Sacramento County felony elder abuse case in 2016, the Sacramento Bee reported.
Police said officers shot and killed Schuessler on Tuesday after he “immediately” opened fire on police who responded to reported gunfire in the area, according to the Bee. In following department policy, the officers involved in the shooting are on administrative leave.
Police at first thought the gunfire hit a police dog in the face. In a news release, police said that after the dog was released on the shooter, the shooter fired at the dog multiple times at close range. But the Citrus Heights Police Department later said the K-9’s face was covered in the suspected shooter’s blood. The dog wasn’t shot.
“Officers on scene are attributing the K-9’s actions with saving their lives,” Citrus Heights police said in a news release. “This incident occurred in a heavily populated area. We believe an active shooter type event was avoided due to the K-9’s actions and the heroic actions of our officers.”
Police said the gunman fired into a Sunrise Mall Macy’s department store where customers were shopping, but no one was hit, according to the Bee.
Avila wasn’t the only lucky one on Tuesday: One officer was nearly hit when one of the gunman’s bullets pierced the “slack” on his or her uniform, the Bee reported.
Citrus Heights Police Chief Ronald Lawrence described Tuesday’s armed stand-off as “a very scary event, a very dangerous event,” and said it “highlights and underscores the dangers that police officers face every day,” the Bee reported.