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"Our investigation will hopefully be able to answer that as regards to why," Capitola Police Chief Terry McManus tells PEOPLE

By Christine Pelisek
March 21, 2017 01:14 PM
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Credit: GoFundMe

Police are investigating what made a 36-year-old man fatally shoot his seven-year-old daughter and then himself in a shopping mall parking lot in California.

The apparent murder-suicide took place while Carlos Garcia and his daughter Yaxtel were sitting inside the family’s black Kia Soul Sunday afternoon outside the busy Capitola Mall in Capitola, in Santa Cruz County.

“Our investigation will hopefully be able to answer that as regards to why,” Capitola Police Chief Terry McManus tells PEOPLE. “We don’t know right now.”

McManus said police have ruled out kidnapping as a motive. “There is nothing to indicate it was a kidnapping,” he said. “It was not an act where the suspect father found the daughter with other family members and coerced her into the car and committed this violent act.”

McManus says Garcia, his wife, Yaxtel and another sibling were inside the mall together prior to the incident. “They were together at the mall,” he says. “For what period of time we are not quite clear now, for what purpose we are not quite clear yet.”

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Credit: Capitola Police Department

According to police, Garcia’s wife called police around 3:15 p.m,, saying her husband was threatening suicide. The wife also told police her daughter was with him inside the Kia Soul, which was parked near the west entrance of the mall.

When police arrived minutes later they found Garcia dead in the driver’s seat from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Yaxtel was found fatally shot in the passenger seat. McManus said officers found a handgun at the scene.

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Officers and medical personnel pulled the father and daughter out of the vehicle and attempted life saving measures, but they died at the scene.

“The loss of our beloved little girl was very sudden and unexpected,” wrote Yaxtel’s aunt, Maria Tapia, on a GoFundMe page set up to help the family raise money for the girl’s funeral. “Our family doesn’t have the necessary funds at the moment and we would really appreciate the help. Our family thanks you from the bottom of our hearts for your help. May god bless you and your family for your kind donation and truly thank you for helping our family putting our little beautiful girl to rest.”

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Vicki Haloff, the principal at Mintie White Elementary School, where Yaxtel went to school, wrote in another GoFundMe campaign that the little girl “was a kind and caring student who loved to learn, and was always there for her friends. She enjoyed school and looked forward to recess where she could talk with her friends. She was a bright ray of sunshine at our school. We will miss her sweet smile and great laugh.”

Haloff said that Yaxtel was survived by two other siblings, her mother, and many members of her extended family.