WHEATON, Md. (WJLA) – A 13-year-old boy is in police custody, accused of ambushing a group of young women, gunning down an 18-year-old female in the process.
Around 5:23 a.m. Wednesday, Montgomery County's 911 center received a distress call. Dispatchers could hear a woman in the background screaming, "He has my sister."
Using cell tower pinging software, call takers sent a swarm of officers to the area of Plyers Mill Road and Saint Margarets Way in Wheaton. Shortly thereafter, staff at Holy Cross Hospital notified police of a shooting victim in their emergency room. Investigators quickly linked the two incidents.
"Our victim is being treated by the ER. I'm with witnesses now," an officer said on his police radio. "Our victim has at least four gunshot wounds, none of which are life-threatening."
That victim, Erilena Liriano, 18, spoke candidly with detectives about the incident. Liriano said she had spent Tuesday evening "hanging" with her 14-year-old sister, and her sister's two 14-year-old friends. Around 4:30 a.m. the four girls left for a local Safeway grocery store to buy snacks. On their walk home, Liriano told investigators a 13-year-old boy jumped out from behind a large magnolia tree. The teen, whom police say one of the 14-year-old girls had been texting throughout the evening, was armed with a handgun.
"I raised my hand to fight him, and that's when he shot me in the arm," Liriano told ABC 7 News while surrounded by a throng of family and friends. "I then jumped into the grass and he kept firing."
Doctors at Holy Cross transferred Liriano to Suburban Hospital, where medical staff performed additional tests and X-rays. With her left arm wrapped in white gauze rolls and bandages covering portions of her back, Liriano was discharged Wednesday evening.
"One bullet went into my arm, but the others were grazes," Liriano, a former Wheaton High School student added. "I'm just scared something may happen again. I'm, like, really nervous."
Investigators say they quickly developed a suspect name and home address thanks to the string of text messages he had exchanged with the group of girls prior to the attack. Police, however, have had a more difficult time locating the suspect's handgun. A pair of detectives canvassed shrubs, bushes, trees, lawns and manholes Wednesday afternoon, but came up empty-handed.
"It was kind of a shock to hear someone was shot, because this has never happened before. I've been here 17 years," resident Carolyn Jackson remarked.
Jackson, like so many other residents, wondered what provoked the early-morning shooting in what is, by all accounts, a peaceful middle-class neighborhood.
"She [Liriano] had situations going on, but she wasn't a bad person to deserve that," Lilian Hernandez said. "I mean things happen, but that shouldn't have went down the way it went down."
The 13-year-old boy, who police have not identified, is facing charges of attempted murder and robbery. Despite the severity of his alleged crimes, it's unlikely a judge will waive him to adult court due to his age.