12-year-old accidentally shot himself with gun during sleepover, Chula Vista police say


A 12-year-old boy who died in Chula Vista accidentally shot himself with a gun a teen brought to a sleepover, police said Tuesday.

Investigators were looking into how the 15-year-old boy got access to the gun and to whom it belongs, Lt. Dan Peak said. No arrests had been made as of Tuesday afternoon.

A boy in baseball hat
Max Mendoza, 12, died Saturday in a shooting at his Chula Vista home.
(Family photo)

Peak said the victim, who family identified as Maximilian Mendoza, was given access to the gun during the sleepover at the Mendoza family’s home in a condominium complex on Telegraph Canyon Road. The shooting occurred about 9 a.m. Saturday.

Family members said they heard a gunshot, then found Max bleeding. His mother, Aida Mendoza, said she held her “baby boy” in her arms as he repeatedly said, “Mom.” Mendoza told her son she loved him.

Rescue workers took Max to a hospital, where he died.

“I miss him,” Mendoza said Sunday outside her home as her eyes filled with tears. “He had a great heart — and a big heart.”


Investigators questioned the 15-year-old boy and released him to the custody of his family.

Max was remembered as a respectful, kind and charismatic boy with a smile a neighbor described as genuine. Family members and neighbors said he helped with tasks and looked after his four sisters. He taught his youngest sisters how to ride a bike, skateboard and swim. He had recently graduated from Rogers Elementary School.

“He’s the smartest, handsomest, sweetest boy you could have ever met,” neighbor Eliadora Foster said Sunday as she cried. “He was the little man in the house, and he acted like the little man in the house.”

Foster said Max was well-known among neighbors.

“The whole neighborhood cried because he’s so special,” she said. “It hurts that he’s gone. He was taken from us too soon.”

Hernandez writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.