It was a horrifying housewarming.
The parents of a 13-year-old shot by an unknown gunman said Saturday that their daughter had improved and was recovering at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in South Miami.
The girl was wounded late Thursday when a van pulled up and opened fire. It happened three days after the previously homeless family had moved into the house in the Goulds area, the family said.
According to her parents, Lazara Retana sustained damage to her pancreas and stomach after she was shot in the back just before midnight.
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The family said Lazara was standing with her mother, Libis Morales, and two younger siblings, 10-year old Lazaro and 8-year old Lizi, talking to neighbors near the entrance of their house at Southwest 221st Street and 115th Court when the bullets began to fly. She was the only one hit.
“They removed the breathing tube today so she’s been able to walk and talk and drink water,” Lazara’s father, Lazaro Retana, said Saturday. “She even told the doctor she needed a shower so you know she’s feeling better. We’re so grateful for the support she has received and that she is recovering.”
Morales told reporters that she had just answered the door and was talking to a couple of neighbors when what was described as a red Chevy Astro pulled up in front of their house and stopped. The occupant lowered the window and fired several shots.
As the gunfire erupted, Lazara was hit in the back as she got in front of her younger siblings, the family said.
Lazara’s father was inside the house when the shooting occurred.
“This has been an incredibly tough for us, seeing one of your children almost dying in front of you,” Retana said. “Luckily, God helped us find the right path and helped our daughter.”
Doctors said she would have to remain hospitalized for at least another five days.
“We called for an ambulance but it was taking too long to arrive and my daughter was bleeding,” Morales said. “We were scared she was going to die before help arrived. We got in the car and started driving toward the hospital because we didn’t know when the ambulance would arrive. Luckily, a couple of men, a couple of good Samaritans, God bless them, that were nearby came rushing to help when they saw what was happening and helped us until the ambulance arrived."
Lazaro Retana said he does not know why his family was targeted. They had been living at the house — courtesy of the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust — for three days prior to the shooting.
Because of financial struggles and lack of consistent employment, the family had been living in their car for nearly a month until seeking the organization’s help, Retana said. Prior to that, Retana said he and his family had been homeless at one point for nearly eight months.
“I don’t care what it takes, we will find you and your children a safe place to live,” said Homeless Trust Chairman Ron Book, as he spoke to the family Saturday outside the hospital. “No child should have ever been in that kind of danger.”
Retana said he most recently had been working part time at a car wash, but that he is in the process of searching for a job. For the time being, he and his wife plan to stay in the hospital with their daughter. The two younger siblings were staying with Morales’ eldest daughter from a previous marriage.
Book and other representatives of his group and CarrFour, a nonprofit organization that provides supportive housing for individuals and families in need, met with the Retana family Saturday and promised to expedite the process of finding them a new and safer place to live.
Morales and Retana, both born in Cuba, met 16 years ago after Morales fled the island. They got married shortly thereafter.
Their daughter attended Citrus Middle School and will start eighth grade in the fall.
“I just feel bad for my younger children because they’ve been affected by what’s happened and they’re not sleeping well,” Morales said. “We have hope for our daughter’s recovery, but we realize she will have to deal with the consequences of this injury the rest of her life. I’m just grateful to God I still have my daughter with me.”
Miami-Dade police are still looking for a red Chevrolet Astro van. To report any information on the shooting, you can call 305-471-TIPS.