Before Monday, before the 911 call and police investigation, Pedro Ruiz III, an aspiring YouTube star in rural Minnesota, spent considerable time persuading his girlfriend to fire a gun at his chest.
There would be a thick encyclopedia between the muzzle and his body, authorities say he told 19-year-old Monalisa Perez. The pages, he reasoned, would stop the bullet.
He even had evidence that it had worked once before — a different book with an entrance hole but no exit.
So on Monday evening, the young couple positioned two cameras outside their home and prepared for their breakthrough stunt. They wanted fame, family said, and danger often brings it.
“Me and Pedro are probably going to shoot one of the most dangerous videos ever,” Perez teased in a tweet at 5 p.m. “HIS idea not MINE.”
FollowMonalisa Perez @MonalisaPerez5
Me and Pedro are probably going to shoot one of the most dangerous videos ever HIS idea not MINE
It had been three months since the young couple added their vlog, La MonaLisa, to YouTube, where they posted clips of their daily lives and their 3-year-old daughter. They live in Halstad, Minn., a tiny town on the North Dakota border between Grand Forks and Fargo. Episodes featured shots from their home, the car or at the doctor’s office, which is where Perez revealed in May that she was pregnant with a boy.
Their shtick, though, was pulling minor pranks: doughnuts with baby powder instead of powdered sugar, feigning paralysis from a grocery store wheelchair, hiding hot peppers on an egg salad sandwich. Just this week, Perez posted a video of Ruiz doing a handstand inside a rotating fun house tunnel at the county fair.
But the bullet and book stunt was supposed to be their moment.
“I said, ‘Don’t do it, don’t do it,’ ” Ruiz’s aunt, Claudia Ruiz, told her nephew when he shared his idea, according to Valley News Live. “Why are you going to use a gun? Why?”
His response, she said, was simple: “Because, we want more viewers.”
With one camera attached to a ladder and the other propped on the back of a car, the couple staged their stunt, according to authorities. Ruiz held the book to his chest and Perez held the gun, a gold Desert Eagle .50-caliber pistol considered “one of the most powerful semiautomatic handguns in the world.”
From a foot away, court documents say, Perez fired.
This time, the bullet didn’t stop in the book but instead pierced Ruiz in the chest. Medics tried to revive him, authorities said, but he was declared dead at the house.