'We’re a community. We rally around people': Fargo restaurant holds fundraiser for mom and baby shot there
Plaza Azteca was packed with customers shortly after opening on Friday, May 20, two days after the shooting.
FARGO — The manager of a Fargo restaurant held court over a packed house on Friday, May 20, two days after a shooting there shattered a peaceful afternoon and critically injured a young mother and her baby.
Antonio Magaña, who runs Plaza Azteca at 5505 28th Ave. S., held a daylong fundraiser to help defray medical expenses for Lucia Garcia and her 7-month-old son, Dominique.
Garcia was holding her baby when both were shot by the boy’s father, Malik Gill, who later died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound inside a stolen vehicle in Clay County.
“We think it’s just something really sad. Certainly, it happened in our house, but this could happen anywhere else,” Magaña said.
The restaurant was closed Thursday to give staff a chance to regroup but opened again at 11 a.m. Friday for the fundraiser, which will donate 50% of the day’s sales to the victims.
People came out in droves to support the cause and enjoy food and drinks, filling the restaurant lobby and spilling out into the entry.
Justin Wiedrich works a few blocks from the restaurant and said his building went on lockdown after the shooting because it was unknown where the shooter went.
“My first reaction was, I just hope everybody's okay,” Wiedrich said.
He said he was so glad to see that the restaurant was busy.
“It’s just nice. … Everybody from different backgrounds, different parts of the world or whatever. … We’re a community. We rally around people,” he said.
Chantel Aker, an employee at Sanford Health, arrived to pick up a to-go lunch order for about 20 of her co-workers.
She said nurses at Sanford were vital in treating the shooting victims.
“It was a tragedy. We need to make sure we’re helping the community,” Aker said.
Kris Svaleson, of Fargo, said he’s a regular at Plaza Azteca, so attending the fundraiser was a natural thing to do.
“They run a great business. It's great food. We love the place and the employees but also for the situation that happened … to donate to the family,” Svaleson said.
Mary Johnson and Geri Walz, of Fargo, sat in a booth enjoying fresh-made guacamole.
“We wanted to support the young lady and her child, and also support the business because they lost some revenue, too,” Johnson said.
The fundraiser runs until 10 p.m. Friday.
As of Thursday evening, Garcia was reported in critical but stable condition at Sanford Medical Center. No further updates were available Friday.
A GoFundMe page created by the family said Garcia was shot in the upper right chest and lost a lot of blood. She underwent surgery and was awaiting a second surgery.
Her son, Dominique, was hit in his left thigh, left side of his abdomen and left hand with a bullet.
He also underwent surgery and is expected to make a full recovery, according to the GoFundMe, which seeks $50,000 for the family’s medical expenses. Over $13,000 in online donations had been sent as of noon Friday.
The GoFundMe site said the relationship between Garcia, 21, and Gill, 24, had always been troubled, but Garcia insisted on making it work “for the sake of baby Dominique.”
In the Wednesday incident, Gill confronted Garcia with a handgun inside the restaurant around 1:45 p.m., Fargo Police Chief David Zibolski said.
Several patrons and staff were also inside, but no one else was hurt.
Zibolski said multiple shots were fired inside and outside as Garcia tried to run to safety with the baby.
Witnesses at the restaurant were able to get a license plate number on the vehicle that fled the scene. Around 2:25 p.m., there was a report of a stolen vehicle nearby, and a license plate number was obtained.
Clay County Sheriff Mark Empting said about 3:30 p.m., Gill was involved in a high-speed pursuit after deputies spotted the stolen vehicle on Minnesota Highway 9 about three miles south of the intersection with U.S. Highway 10.
Empting said law enforcement used OnStar tracking to follow the vehicle and stop sticks to flatten the tires.
After the vehicle later crashed, a drone was used to determine there was no movement in the vehicle, and officers located Gill’s body.