Two crack-cocaine dealers have been arrested in connection with the shooting that injured an 11-month-old girl in the Bronx last year, police said on Wednesday. The child’s mother told The Post she was “delighted” that her daughter’s alleged attackers had finally been caught.
Ahmed Altorei, 36, and Samuel Bautista, 30, are accused of opening fire on a rival drug dealer on January 19, 2022 – when they hit little Catherine Ortiz in the face with a stray bullet while she was with her mother Miraida in Gomez was sitting in a parked car.
“I’m delighted,” Gomez, 33, said when reached by phone on Wednesday, adding that she was on her way to court to see the indictment against the defendant in her daughter’s case.
The mother-of-three girls said she gave a “cry of relief” when she heard the two men had been captured.
“It’s bittersweet,” she remarked. “We have to live with what happened for the rest of our lives.”
The baby survived but had to undergo brain surgery after being hit by a bullet in the left cheek. Her mother was with her in the car at the intersection of East 198th Street and Valentine Avenue that evening and was unharmed.
Police had released a photo of the car being driven by a suspect involved in the shooting days later in an attempt to arrest them. But it took more than a year for authorities to track down the suspected shooter — Altorei was arrested Tuesday, while Bautista was snatched Wednesday morning, Manhattan federal prosecutors said.
The two Bronx men are accused of distributing narcotics and carrying firearms as part of a drug trafficking ring in the Grand Concourse and East 198th Street neighborhood.
The duo allegedly sold cocaine and crack from May 2018 to August 2023, prosecutors allege.
They were involved in a shootout at a rival drug dealer on the day the little passer-by was hit by the stray bullet, prosecutors said.
“On a day like any other, gunshots rang out in the Bronx,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement. “It was a targeted shootout. But one of the bullets hit an innocent victim – a girl just 11 months old – who was shot in the face while she was in a car with her mother.”
“The baby survived and it’s a miracle. But the emotional and physical trauma will never go away,” Williams said.
Ortiz underwent three surgeries in the past year, removing part of her brain and inserting a titanium plate into her skull, her mother explained.
“The bullet broke her skull. They had to remove that side of her skull; it couldn’t be saved,” Gomez said.
Doctors predicted that the little girl, now two and a half years old, would never be able to walk or talk, but fortunately those predictions were wrong, Gomez said.
“Luckily, she’s made a lot of progress,” Gomez said.
“But due to her medical diagnosis, we need to strengthen her limbs, but other than that, she’s functioning like a normal two-and-a-half year old.”
The daughter is speaking now, and her first word was “mom,” Gomez said. “Luckily for me.”
“She sings songs, she dances,” said the mother.
Video captured the troubling moment when the gunman fired two shots, one of which hit the little girl.
Gomez said she remembers the day of the shooting and being unable to call 911 afterward.
“I was sitting right next to my daughter when it happened,” Gomez recalls. “You don’t know what to do. Of course you call 911, but I couldn’t call 911.”
“I held her, I gave her CPR. It was really scary,” the mother said.
Altorei and Bautista were due to appear in court for the first time on Wednesday.
If convicted of drug conspiracy, they each face a minimum of ten years in prison and face life imprisonment.
Lawyers for the two accused did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.