Family mourns loss of 3-year-old girl hit by vehicle

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MESA -- A Mesa family is mourning the loss of a three-year-old girl after she was hit by a vehicle Sunday afternoon.

Erika Julithza Mendoza held her dad Gerano as they remember what happened.

"It all happened so fast,” said Gerano Mendoza. “We were just coming back from church."

Police said Jaqueline Monroe-Mendoza was getting out of her family's vehicle in the parking lot of their apartment complex near Alma School Road and Rio Salado Parkway when she was struck by the vehicle.

"After the little girl exited the vehicle, she began to run towards the parking lot," said Sgt. Efren Carmona with the Mesa Police Department. "The sister tried to grab the girl's shirt, and that's when the collision occurred."

"I held her in my arms after I picked her up from the ground, and she was full of blood, and blood was coming out of her mouth,"  he said.

He said he shouted out for someone to call 911.

"I was hugging her and kissing her. I didn't know what to do. I felt so desperate to see her that way and not be able to do anything about it," said Mendoza.

His little girl Jaqueline Melissa Mendoza passed away at the hospital. "We feel so bad losing our little girl, my doll, the youngest. We are going to miss her so much," he said.

He said his ten-year-old daughter Janithza saw it all. "She hugged me and said, ‘Dad, it's not my fault, and I told her I know it's not your fault. It's no one’s fault,’" said Mendoza.

Police said a white Suburban ran over three-year-old Jaqueline with both front and back tires.

"I saw her on the ground, bleeding," said Mendoza.

Police said the driver went through the apartment complex, turned back around, stopped for a moment and then left.

"I don't know if he saw her or not,” said Mendoza. “I am not angry because maybe he didn't see her, but he should have stopped."

Neighbors and friends said they will never forget this playful and lovable little girl. "She's an angel. A living doll is what I called her," said Arlene Darnee-Dupee.

"Very active very active beautiful little girl. She's going to be missed,” said Maria Munoz.

"She was a very happy girl very playful and affectionate,” said Mendoza.

She could always be seen playing on her scooter or bike. "This is her bike, but most of the time she wanted always to ride my bike," said her eight-year-old sister, Erika Julithza.

"Every afternoon after school they would be out here playing around,” said Munoz.

Neighbors said Mendoza, a single dad, could be seen with Jaqueline and her three other siblings, Janithza, Erika and Ricardo, at the pool or playing with them around the complex.

"He was always looking out for them,” said Munoz.

Mendoza said it's hard to believe he won't see his little girl out here anymore.

There is a memorial with Jaqueline’s picture, candles and flowers just feet away from where she was hit.

Jaqueline was the youngest of four.

"She always hugged me and gave me kisses on the cheek," said Mendoza.

Mendoza said he will seek refuge in prayer and his loved ones to get through this.

"If God wanted to take her, he knows what he's doing,” he said.

The family is raising money for Jaqueline’s funeral.

They have set up a memorial fund under Genaro Mendoza Orduno at Wells Fargo.