LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- A California woman shot and killed herself while driving in southern New Mexico after her 9-year-old daughter refused her mother's request to kill her, authorities said.
The girl told investigators that her mother began to breathe heavily – possibly from an asthma or emphysema attack – and handed over a 9 mm handgun.
"She told her to shoot her. And she wouldn't," State police Lt. Roman Jimenez said. "The daughter said she has had these kinds of attacks before, but she'd never been suicidal."
After the girl refused, the woman fired a shot into her own chest Thursday morning and the car rolled to a stop on the left shoulder of Interstate 10, about 25 miles west of Las Cruces. The girl was not injured.
The Associated Press does not provide information that would lead to the identification of a juvenile victim.
The woman and her daughter, traveling with two dogs, were headed to Oklahoma City. The girl and the dogs were taken into protective custody by state police while authorities waited for the girl's father to travel from California.
State police could not confirm the woman's hometown in California.
Dustin Stober, a Navy petty officer, was driving behind the woman's car and said it seemed as though the driver had hit the brakes to avoid an animal darting across the road. He said he pulled his vehicle in front of the woman's car to block it, told his wife to call authorities, and then tried to treat the wound.
"I knew what to do in this situation, and I couldn't do anything," Stober said.
"We're thankful that there were passers-by who were willing and able to assist this small child out of the vehicle," Jimenez said.
Neither alcohol nor drugs were believed to be a factor in the shooting. The woman's body was transported to Albuquerque for an autopsy.