A 12-year-old girl used her body to shield her 1-year-old niece from a flurry of gunfire outside the family's Bloomington home that has the youngster fighting for her life, according to the family.
Makayla Saulter-Outlaw remains in critical condition Tuesday at HCMC with a gunshot wound to the head that police say was inflicted by a next-door neighbor who moments earlier late Sunday had killed his wife in the 8300 block of S. 15th Avenue.
Makayla's sister, 29-year-old Canisha Saulter, is recovering after gunfire shattered her hip and an ankle, the family said.
Jason Mesich, 48, was arrested after a nearly three-hour standoff with police that was punctuated with volleys of gunfire from inside the home.
Mesich was charged Tuesday with second-degree murder and two counts of second-degree attempted murder in connection with fatally shooting his wife, 47-year-old Angela Mesich, in the garage before taking aim at the neighbors as they were loading a moving truck they intended to drive to a new home in Bloomington.
The charges say Jason Mesich told police soon after surrendering that the people he targeted "were not good neighbors," that he "hated all children" and also was concerned that they had seen him shoot his wife.
As the bullets flew, "Makayla is carrying Winter, cradling her in her arms," said the Rev. Marcia Westbrook, who is a great-aunt to Makayla and 1-year-old Winter Burrows. "She fell and stopped her from getting shot, and she got shot in the head."
Westbrook, a minister at New Creation Baptist Church in Minneapolis, called Makayla "our little angel. She saved our little niece's life."
While hurting for her wounded nieces, Westbrook said she is grateful and amazed that her sister and the mother of the injured sisters, Mildred Saulter, was spared from the man's gunfire coming from barely 10 feet away.
"The Lord shielded her because nothing hit her," Westbrook said. "She had to run around the truck and got in the cab. He was still shooting while Mildred was helping Canisha get in the cab. She couldn't climb anymore."
Another daughter of Mildred Saulter, 30-year-old Charnae Saulter, was in a car nearby and ran to Makayla, "flips her over and sees her bleeding from the ear," Westbrook said.
While Mildred Saulter drove Canisha to the hospital, Charnae Saulter did the same with Makayla.
The doctors "aren't giving us anything at all, one way or the other" about Makayla's prospects for survival, the minister said.
Westbrook said her family is baffled about why the man started shooting in the first place, especially after having no interaction with any of them during the three-plus years of being neighbors.
"He was just a shooting crazy person," Westbrook said. "I don't think they even spoke."
The only troubling behavior, in hindsight, is that "he was always staring at them. He was always peeking out the window. He never said anything. Never had bad words or disagreement."
According to the charges:
Jason Mesich was more specific to police about why he killed his wife. He said the two were arguing in the garage. She took a swing at him, and he countered by hitting her with both fists in the collar bone.
He said his wife said something like "just shoot me, then," the complaint read. Asked how many times he shot her, he said, "I probably emptied it. … I want to make sure she is dead," the charges continued.
A search of Mesich's home revealed numerous guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Emergency dispatch radio indicated that Jason Mesich has a traumatic brain injury and was prescribed anti-anxiety medication.
Westbrook said that all she knows for sure is "he came trying to kill my family [and] he came after his wife."