A 1-year-old girl lying in her crib was fatally shot late Tuesday evening by a gunman who opened fire outside her family's house in Compton, authorities said.
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department officials said the gunman got out of a car, walked up to the residence and fired in the direction of a converted garage where Autumn Johnson, who had just celebrated her birthday last week, lived with her parents.
Autumn was struck in the head.
One witness, who declined to give her full name, described hearing several gunshots followed by a woman screaming: “They shot my baby. They shot my baby.”
The witness said she called 911 before walking outside, where she saw the baby's sobbing father emerge from the garage with his daughter in his arms.
“Someone take my baby to the hospital,” the father said.
Deputies who responded to the home near Holly Avenue and San Marcus Street took Autumn to St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood in their patrol car, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. Ulysses Cruz said.
She was pronounced dead at the hospital. (Authorites initially reported Autumn was 3 months old but later said she was 1).
Detectives were trying to determine what prompted the shooting and whether it was related to a gang dispute, said Cmdr. Rod Kusch, who heads the sheriff's Major Crimes Bureau.
Sheriff's homicide Capt. Steve Katz described the family of the girl as “very distraught.”
“Emotions are very high,” he said.
Rena Burleson said she used to watch Autumn and raced to the hospital when she heard about the shooting on social media.
Burleson said when she got there the family was gone so she came to the block where they live “to see if it's true, and I see that it's all blocked off.”
“It just hurts and bleeds,” said the Long Beach resident.
The girl's death quickly reverberated across the neighborhood.
Audric Crenshaw, 47, of Carson was in Bible study at a church about two blocks from the shooting.
About a dozen other people were in the weekly class at Kingdom Life Christian Fellowship.
Crenshaw didn't hear the gunfire but later learned of the girl's death.
“It's not surprising because it's the city of Compton, for its name,” Crenshaw said with a sigh as he locked the doors of the stucco-walled church. “But it's surprising to me because it's a baby.”
He said the proximity to violence did not make him fearful. “I put my faith in God, not what's in the streets.”
Young children have been innocent victims of gang violence before.
In 2012, a 15-year-old gang member rode up on a bicycle to a family gathered outside a home in Watts. He drew a revolver and opened fire, killing 14-month-old Angel Mauro Cortez Vega and wounding his 21-year-old father.
The assailant, Donald Ray Dokins, mistakenly believed the father was a member of a rival gang because of the color of his T-shirt. Dokins was later convicted of murder and sentenced to 90 years to life in prison.
The site of Tuesday's shooting, about a block from Roosevelt Elementary School, is one of the more violent neighborhoods in L.A. County, according to crime data compiled by The Times.
During the last six months, Compton has had 475 violent crimes, including eight homicides, according to The Times' database.
The city contracts with the Sheriff's Department for police services.
After Tuesday night's shooting, authorities said the gunman got into a dark-colored sedan and drove away south on Holly.
Times staff writers Cindy Chang, Megan Garvey, Ruben Vives, and Richard Winton contributed to this report.