Chris Solis spends every Christmas at his grandmother's house, eating Mexican breads and exchanging gifts. But this year won't be the same. Solis will spend the holidays in the sterile confines of John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, where his 19-year old sister, Dominique Romero, is recovering from a gunshot wound.
Romero was hit by a stray bullet while watching TV at her house on Waller Avenue in Richmond on the night of Dec. 14. The bullet pierced her elbow, entered her side and lodged in her spinal cord, an injury that could leave the young woman paralyzed from the waist down.
While tragedy has struck Romero and her loved ones this Christmas season, dozens of people have offered their support to Romero and her family. "I've lived in Richmond 27 years, and it's a violent city, there's no denying that," Solis said. "But to see all of these people reaching out is overwhelming. It's keeping my sister in good spirits, knowing the whole community has her back."
Before she was shot, Romero used her hard-earned savings buying Christmas presents for her nieces and nephews. The gifts sit unwrapped in her closet. "She told me yesterday, 'Have mom wrap them and give them to the girls,'" Solis said. "I told her, 'We're going to wait 'til you get home.' We'll have another Christmas then."
Richmond police have no suspects in the shooting, but they don't think the gunman was aiming for Romero or anyone else in the family. "This was kind of a freak thing where it went into the house and hit her," Sgt. Nicole Abetkov said.
Police ask that anyone with information contact the department, because investigators have no leads in the case.
The family is still coping with the shock of the incident. "It's traumatizing seeing your youngest sister there, laying on the floor shot. It's been messing with me," said Solis, who was at the house at the time of the shooting.
After she's released from the hospital, Romero isn't sure she wants to move back to her home in Richmond. "It's the house she grew up in, and now she's afraid to go there," Solis said. "She doesn't feel safe there anymore."
Romero was unable to talk to the Contra Costa Times about the incident.
It's uncertain when Romero will be released from the hospital. For now, the family is focusing on the holidays. They brought a "Charlie Brown" Christmas tree to Romero's hospital room and have adorned the walls with holiday decorations.
The outpouring of community support has lifted the family's hopes, Solis said. Well-wishers from across Northern California have sent gifts to the hospital. Romero received a pair of Ugg boots from a Santa Rosa resident, and a woman from Pleasant Hill left $150 in gift cards at the hospital.
Romero and her family also received more than $2,600 in donations through an online fundraising site, which they say will be used to cover the medical bills. "It's starting to feel like a lot of positive is coming from the negative," Solis said. "It's bringing the community together; everyone is rallying behind her."
Anyone with information about the shooting can contact Detective Jason Wentz at 510-621-1259. Anonymous tips can be left at 510-232-TIPS, or you can call the nonemergency number at 510-233-1214. Police are offering a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the shooter. To make a donation to Romero and her family, go to www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/dominique-s-miracle-/118547.