As part of a young couple's quest for YouTube fame, a 19-year-old woman shot at a book her boyfriend was holding against his chest, killing him at close range outside their northwestern Minnesota home.
Monalisa Perez was charged Wednesday with second-degree manslaughter in the shooting of her boyfriend, 22-year-old Pedro Ruiz III, Monday night in Halstad.
Perez, who is pregnant, appeared from jail by video at a Norman County District Court proceeding Wednesday. She posted $7,000 cash bail and was released late Wednesday afternoon.
Ruiz held up the book — described by County Attorney James Brue as a hardcover encyclopedia — and Perez pulled the trigger on a .50-caliber Desert Eagle pistol, trying to see whether the bullet would go through, according to the criminal complaint.
A few hours before the shooting, a posting went up on Perez's Twitter account that read: "Me and Pedro are probably going to shoot one of the most dangerous videos ever. HIS idea not MINE." The note included two wide-eyed emoji faces and another of an eye-covering monkey with a gaping mouth.
The Desert Eagle is described by retailer Cabela's in an online ad as "one of the world's most powerful semiautomatic handguns."
Brue said there are "multiple videos" of the shooting, and they will not be released publicly at this time.
"We called him our little daredevil," said Lisa Primeau, an aunt who added that she "pretty much raised" Ruiz after his mother died in Texas when he was young. He tried living with his father in this part of the country, but it didn't work out, Primeau said.
Primeau said Ruiz was always chasing a thrill, "putting a dangerous twist on everything he did." His antics included "jumping into the swimming pool from the top of the house, no hesitation. He was a crazy driver with go-carts."
She said Ruiz also "had plenty of guns. He liked guns."
Another aunt of Ruiz's told WDAY-TV in Fargo that the shooting outside the couple's home on Hwy. 75, with their 3-year-old daughter nearby, was part of a stunt they intended to post on YouTube.
"He had told me about that idea," the aunt told the TV station, "and I said, 'Don't do it. Don't do it. Why are you going to use a gun? Why?' "
She quoted him as replying, " 'Because we want more viewers. We want to get famous.' "
Perez has a YouTube channel with many videos the couple have made, with stunts and pranks prevalent. The most recent one went up the morning before the shooting. It's titled "Doing Scary Stunts at the Fair, Part I" and shows the couple attending a fair last Thursday. Ruiz and a young relative were featured enjoying various rides.
"Imagine when we have 300,000 subscribers," Perez says during the video.
Ruiz replies, "I told them, the bigger we get, I'll be throwing parties."
One hour before their future unraveled Monday evening, Perez wrote on Facebook, "We are in the process of making Pedro a YouTube channel oh man is it going to be sweet! LOL." She added: "All the crazy stuff will [be] on his channel and mine. will be our family life!!!"
Soon after the shooting, Perez told a sheriff's deputy that it was Ruiz who had been pushing his idea for the video, which was recorded by one camera on the back of a parked vehicle and another on a ladder, according to the complaint. He had shown her another book that he had shot and the bullet didn't go all the way through, the charging document continued.
"Perez stated that she shot from about a foot away while [Ruiz] held the book to his chest," the complaint read.
In May, Perez posted a video revealing the sex of the child they are expecting in late September. It is a boy.
Ruiz and Perez had been together for six years, Primeau said, and Perez became pregnant at 15.
As they anticipated another child, Ruiz was supporting his growing family working for BNSF Railway and was studying to be a foreman, Primeau said. She added that she and others related to Ruiz "are all supporting Mona. It's a tragic incident. What she did … she has to live with that. It's the worst punishment she can get. She is pregnant with their second kid. It's just heartbreaking."