LOWER MANHATTAN (PIX11) — A Bronx toddler’s innocent and oblivious giggles could be heard in a federal courtroom, as a judge read the charges for the men who allegedly shot her. 

It was the day Catherine Arias’ parents have been waiting for since the moment they almost lost her.

Two men pleaded not guilty to charges unsealed in a U.S. District Court indictment Wednesday afternoon, hours after their arrests in the Bronx.

Ahmed Altoeri, 36, and Samuel Bautista, 30, were charged with drug trafficking and the shooting, which caused a traumatic brain injury to Catherine at 11 months old. 

PIX11 News was the only station there with the 2-and-a-half-year-old who ran, smiled and chatted with her parents at the Columbus Park Playground before the arraignment. But make no mistake – she and her parents have been to hell and back. 

Catherine was barely a year old in January 2022 when two suspects were caught on camera firing guns in the Bronx. She was parked in a car with her mother, Miraida Gomez, when a bullet pierced the baby’s brain and became lodged in her car seat. 

While the gunmen took off, authorities never stopped their pursuit of justice. On Wednesday morning, the family finally got the “surreal” call they had been waiting for.  

“I felt the breath leaving my body,” Gomez said, calling it “…a sigh of relief and then we cried. Because yes, finally justice is being served for our daughter.”

All three were in the courtroom to see justice done in person. 

PIX11’s Anthony DiLorenzo asked Catherine’s father, Gregory Arias, “What was it like having Catherine there?” Arias said, “It was great, it was great! It’s just like, here you go look at this. What you thought you were going to completely obliterate is standing right in front of you.”

Catherine still has a rigorous five-day-a-week round of speech, occupational and physical therapy at Blythedale Children’s Hospital. But her parents and doctors said she is meeting and surpassing her milestones. 

Neither attorney for the suspects would comment on the charges. They are being held behind bars without bail, while Catherine and her family are home continuing on their journey of hope and healing.