Jessica Lopez was shot in the head outside East High. She still wakes up screaming for help.

Jessica Lopez, 16, was shot in the head during what police believe was a drive-by shooting outside of East High School on March 7, 2022. Photo from GoFundMe page

By Andrea May Sahouri, Des Moines Register

Jessica Lopez remembers a red Ford F150 circling the block of East High School’s north parking lot.

She also remembers the face of the teenager who allegedly shot her in the head.


“She’s awake,” the 16-year-old’s mother, Guadalupe Torres, said Thursday through an interpreter. Torres wore a gold rosary around her neck.

“And she can still see his face.”

Jessica Lopez, 16, was shot in the head during what police believe was a drive-by shooting outside of East High School on March 7, 2022.

Lopez and another East High student, Kemery Ortega, were caught in the gunfire in what police said they believe was a drive-by shooting outside of the school on March 7. Both were shot in the head. Both survived. But Jose Lopez-Perez, 15 — whom police believe was the intended target of the shooting — was killed.


Six local teenagers have been charged, each with first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.

Jessica Lopez still wakes up screaming for help

Torres, 35, said her daughter was waiting outside to get picked up from school early.


Then, Lopez heard gunshots, Torres said her daughter told her. A bullet went through her skull. Another hit her hand. Torres said Lopez remembers hearing more gunfire as she lay injured on the ground.

When Torres found out about the shooting, “I thought I was going crazy,” she said. She drove to the school to see if it was true.

She saw the crime scene. She asked police if her daughter was okay.

“They said they didn’t know,” Torres said.

Since the shooting, Torres has felt panic and fear, she said. When medical staff guided her to a private room at the hospital, her stomach dropped. She thought they would tell her her daughter didn’t survive, she said. Her daughter is recovering but the fear hasn’t left her, she said.


Lopez has been waking up in the middle of the night screaming for help, Torres said. And when Lopez speaks, Torres said she can hear frustration and anger in her daughter’s voice.

Despite Lopez’s progress, doctors have told Torres that the brain damage and injuries Lopez suffered have life-long consequences, she said. Doctors are still assessing the extent of the damage, and like Ortega, Lopez will also need titanium plates in her skull, she said.

Torres said that her daughter sometimes doesn’t remember her family or friends. But she’s awake, she can talk, and she can eat without a feeding tube — she’s been craving chicken nuggets, Torres said, chuckling.

It was the last meal her daughter had before she was shot.

The recovery process feels slow, but her daughter is strong, Torres said. The Des Moines community and beyond have been stepping up to help the victims of the shooting, including Lopez. As of Friday, a GoFundMe to support Lopez’s recovery has raised nearly $12,000

Jessica Lopez is tough and stands up for herself, her mother says

Torres described her daughter as social. She loves to go out and dance with her boyfriend, she said, and she loves spending time with her family and friends.

She’s also tough, she said. She stands up for herself.

“She also likes to have things her way,” Torres added with a smile.


Lopez is also compassionate and loves to help others, Torres said. And Lopez recently vowed to become a better person, Torres said. She had been taking her future and her path towards beauty school more seriously.

Torres said there is so much uncertainly about what her daughter’s life will look like after she’s released from the hospital.

“The damage is done,” Torres said.

Now, she, like others from the community, is calling for action so guns aren’t falling into the hands of children so what happened to her daughter will not happen again.

Andrea Sahouri covers social justice for the Des Moines Register. She can be contacted at [email protected], on Twitter @andreamsahouri, or by phone 515-284-8247.

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