12-Year-Old Minn. Girl's Aunt Calls Her a 'Hero' for Protecting Infant Niece During Shooting

Makayla Saulter is being celebrated as a "hero" after she recently took a bullet to the head while protecting her 18-month-old niece during a shooting.

On Aug. 30, a 48-year-old Minnesota man — whom police later identified as Jason Michael Mesich — fatally shot his wife Angela Mesich before shooting Makayla, 12, and her sister Canisha Saulter, 29, who lived next door, according to a statement from police in Bloomington.

Makayla and Canisha were helping their aunt load a moving truck at the time of the shooting, KARE reported. "They had been shot while in their front yard which is on the same block as the deceased victim," police said in a previous statement.

At the time of the shooting, Makayla was holding Canisha's infant daughter, Winter, when the teen was shot in the head while trying to run away from the gunman, according to Today, which reported that authorities found Makayla on the ground cradling the unharmed baby upon arrival to the scene.

"She's a hero," Makalya's aunt, Reverend Marcia Westbook, told Today. "She was going to protect the baby no matter what. She's a protector."

As of Thursday, the Bloomington police statement noted Mayakla in critical condition and Canisha in serious condition, recovering from multiple gunshot wounds to the legs.

"It is unknown how long she will be in the hospital or if she will ever fully recover," Westbrook wrote of Makayla on a GoFundMe campaign set up for the family.

However, Anthony Smith, Makayla and Canisha's cousin, told Today that Makayla is a "fighter" and the family is continuing to pray for her recovery.

PEOPLE confirmed Thursday that Mesich is being held on $1 million bail on one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder.

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As of Sept. 3, Mesich had yet to enter pleas to the charges, and it was unclear if he had a lawyer. He's due back in court Sept. 30.

Police were summoned to the Mesich home on Aug. 30 shortly after 11 p.m.

As officers arrived, they heard gunshots and quickly located Angela's body.

"The subject inside the residence refused to come out and fired multiple rounds from inside the house. At one point, a Bloomington Officer returned fire. The subject eventually was taken into custody and was uninjured," authorities said.

Mesich allegedly confessed to shooting his 47-year-old wife after an extensive argument, telling police "I probably emptied" the gun's clip.

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