DENVER – A man accused of firing a bullet into a home that killed two people at a New Year's celebration told investigators he was shooting at a streetlight, according to police documents released Wednesday.
Pedro Cortez, 25, was arrested hours after the shooting on two counts of first-degree murder. He was being held without bail.
Investigators said after the shooting that the bullet may have been fired by someone celebrating New Year's, but have not said since the arrest whether they continue to believe that.
Police said they believe Cortez fired a shot at about 12:20 a.m. Tuesday that tore through the front wall of a west Denver home and killed an 11-year-old girl and a woman at a family gathering inside. They said the bullet passed through the seated woman's head and struck the girl in the side.
Family member Norma Kaholo identified the younger victim as her niece, Angelica Martinez, and the woman as Kaholo's cousin, Rebecca Yanez. Authorities confirmed the identifications.
Kaholo said the shooting cannot be excused as an accident, even if the deaths were unintentional.
"When you shoot, the bullet has to go somewhere," she said.
Cortez said nothing during a brief court appearance Wednesday but mouthed "I love you" to family members. His attorney, Harvey Steinberg, told the judge that the only evidence against his client was a statement given to police.
The shooting was one of several episodes of New Year's gun violence across the country. Police routinely warn of random gunfire that heralds each new year and attempt to stop it. But the unwelcome tradition still mixes gunfire with fireworks.
In Alabama, a 7-year-old boy was killed when he was shot in the head around 7 p.m. on New Year's Eve as he played outside his family's apartment.
Montgomery Police Capt. Huey Thornton said a 25-year-old surrendered Tuesday and has been arrested and charged with capital murder in the boy's death. He could face the death penalty.
Thornton said investigators could not immediately rule out celebratory shooting in the case.
A woman also was injured when a bullet tore through the roof of a church near Mobile, striking her in the face. The woman, who was attending a midnight prayer service and was identified by neighbors as Angela Glen, was in fair condition Wednesday.
The Rev. Charles Buchanan said it was a "miracle from God" that she survived the shooting. The bullet apparently was fired from a nearby street, according to police.