A 64-year-old great-grandmother died in her son's arms Saturday, an innocent victim of a shootout between two passing cars as she stood in her driveway, police said.
"I tried giving my mom CPR," said Elvira Arteaga's son, Chris Arteaga, 24. "It didn't work. The blood was coming out of her trachea too fast. She didn't say anything. She staggered a few feet next to a bush in our front yard and she died in my arms."
Police said Arteaga's death, the city's 59th homicide since January, ties the previous murder record set in 1991.
"It's been a rough year in that respect," said Santa Ana Police Lt. Bob Chavez. "And, there are still three months left of this year to go."
Police have been hard-pressed to explain this year's 35% increase in gang-related killings, a phenomenon that has made many residents afraid for themselves and their families.
"I used to be able to walk on the sidewalk. This was a peaceful neighborhood when I moved here in 1986," said a woman who lived next door to the Arteagas and asked not to be identified. "Now, we all feel as if we're terrorized."
Arteaga, who had nine children, was walking to a car parked in her driveway and was about to run an errand at the grocery store with one of her daughters.
At that instant, just before 2 p.m., police said two vehicles involved in a running gun battle had driven near the intersection of St. Gertrude Place and South Birch Street, about 35 yards from Arteaga's driveway.
"One of the bullets struck Arteaga in the throat as she stood in her driveway," Chavez said.
She was taken by ambulance to Western Medical Center-Santa Ana, Chavez said, and was pronounced dead on arrival.
"It appears she was not the intended victim," Chavez said.
Arteaga's son said he heard the gunfire while in his bedroom but did not think twice about the noise because "around here, you hear gunshots all the time."
But when his sister, Olga, 33, came running in, screaming that their mother had been shot, he dashed outside and attempted to resuscitate the mortally wounded woman.
The tragedy has left the Arteaga family feeling grief and anger.
"We always thought that we can stay in the neighborhood and as long as you're not a part of it (gangs), you won't be affected. But not now," Chris Arteaga said.
"This is the first death in our family," he added. "In my (life), I haven't been to one funeral and now it has to be my mom. And, it has to be a drive-by."
He said his mother was the center of the Arteaga household and had dedicated herself to raising her children. Among her five sons and four daughters, none was ever involved in gangs "or anything like that," the son said. "My mom did a pretty good job of raising us."
The woman's husband was away in Mexico.
Late Saturday night, a large spray of flowers sat near the spot where the family matriarch fell.
"Who put the flowers there?" said her son, repeating a question. He paused as tears welled in his eyes, "I did."
Police are asking anyone with information about the shooting to call the Santa Ana Police Department at (714) 647-5165.