It was supposed to be a family gathering on the northeast side of Fresno, California. When reporters arrived at the putty-colored ranch house on Monday, coolers were still sitting in the front yard, and a pink-and-blue banner was tacked to the window. "Happy Birthday!" it said in looping letters.
But according to the Fresno Police Department, the weekend celebration turned tragic when a 23-year-old man couldn't take no for an answer and opened fire after a young woman rejected his advances. One of the bullets hit her 10-month-old daughter in the head, and the child has been hospitalized ever since.
"We are hoping and praying that baby Fayth is able to survive this injury as well as make a full recovery," Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said at a Sunday news conference hours after the shooting.
Before shots rang out early Sunday morning, Deziree Menagh, 18, showed up to the house party with her infant daughter, Fayth Percy. There, she ran into Marcos Antonio Echartea, who reached out and grabbed her by the hand. The 23-year-old was a virtual stranger to her, police said: The two had met for the first time about a week prior and hadn't interacted since.
"There was no relationship," Dyer said. "It was very apparent that he wanted a relationship with her."
Uncomfortable with his advances, Menagh pulled away. She went back outside, joining the partygoers who had gathered in the yard, and told her friends and family what had just transpired.
Despite being rebuffed, Echartea allegedly continued to hound the young mother. He followed her outside, taking a seat on the porch, and tried to pull her close and force her to sit on his lap, Dyer said. Once again, Menagh pulled away. This time, she decided it was time to go.
After collecting Fayth from inside the house, Menagh left the party with a male friend. By then, it was nearly 4 a.m. on Sunday. They got in his car and started driving away, but they didn't get very far. For some reason - police say they aren't entirely clear why - the driver made a U-turn about a block away from where the party was happening and stopped the car. It's possible that the two friends were waiting for Echartea to leave the area so that Menagh, who lives nearby, could get home safely, Dyer said.
But just as they were parking, they spotted him hurriedly pacing toward the car. As soon as Echartea got close, he pulled out a handgun and started firing, police said. Three rounds hit the driver's side window. One came whizzing through the glass toward Fayth, who was in her mother's arms in the passenger's seat. The bullet struck the 10-month-old in the side of the head.
The window had been rolled up, which slowed the velocity of the bullets, Dyer added. If that hadn't been the case, the infant likely would have died. "We're very fortunate that she's alive," he said.
Menagh's friend, who was unscathed, dialed 911 as he began speeding toward the hospital. Once they arrived, Fayth underwent emergency surgery to remove the bullet fragments from her head. The baby's father, who hadn't been at the party, met them there.
After the shooting, Echartea reportedly turned around and went back to the party. Police found him there and arrested him on suspicion of three counts of attempted murder. It's not clear whether he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time, though alcohol was being consumed at the party, authorities told KFSN.
Police also haven't indicated whether the 23-year-old had been trying to hit Menagh or her male friend, or both, when he opened fire. But police did say that he was unrepentant when they showed up to take him into custody.
"When our detectives brought him downtown, he had no remorse," Dyer told the news station. "He had just shot a 10-month-old baby and didn't even seem to care or it didn't faze him."
As it turned out, Echartea was already wanted in another shooting "over a female," Dyer said. On the night of May 27, he allegedly fired numerous shots into the house where his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend was living. One bullet penetrated the wall and came within approximately one foot of a 1-year-old who was inside.
"It's very apparent that Marcos Echartea has no regard for human life, even a baby," Dyer said.
Echartea has been booked into the Fresno County Jail, and it wasn't immediately clear whether he had a lawyer. According to jail records, he faces a total of nine felony charges from the two incidents, including attempted murder, child endangerment and assault with a firearm, and his total bail is listed as more than $1.9 million.
Court records show that at the time of the shooting, Echartea was out on bond while awaiting sentencing in a domestic violence case. In January, he was charged with assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury, false imprisonment with violence and exhibiting a deadly weapon. In March, he pleaded no contest to false imprisonment and had the other charges dropped, and was scheduled to appear for his sentencing hearing in July.
Police said on Sunday afternoon that Fayth was in critical but stable condition. A family friend told KSEE that the surgery had gone well, but the baby's brain was swelling.
"I know the parents are broken, they're hurting," Dyer said. "We held hands at the hospital and prayed over the baby, and we're asking that everyone in this community come together and pray for baby Fayth."