LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA — A 22-year-old Army veteran, who recently returned to the United States after serving in Afghanistan, was killed early Sunday when he was shot during his homecoming party in Los Angeles, officials said. It is believed he was targeted after an earlier dispute.
The victim was identified as Francisco Garcia, whose girlfriend had organized a party at her house in Sylmar, a neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, to celebrate Garcia's homecoming after a tour in Afghanistan. The celebration carried over into Sunday morning, when the partygoers decided to move the party up the street.
The tragic shooting happened just before 2 a.m. local time when Garcia stood on a sidewalk as two cars stopped nearby. A Hispanic male exited a dark SUV, smashed a beer bottle on the ground and yelled at Garcia across the street. The man then walked to a nearby car and retrieved a handgun from an occupant, after which he opened fire, killing Garcia, police said.
"The ironies are obvious. To survive as a soldier in an overseas conflict, only to be killed in your old neighborhood upon your return," said commanding officer Lt. Paul Vernon of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). "It appears Francisco was the target of the attack. Apparently, a simmering dispute had boiled over during the night, and this suspect came looking for Francisco."
Vernon said police were attempting to learn more about the dispute in order to identify the gunman, but they do not believe the occupants of the two vehicles had earlier been at Garcia's homecoming party. Detectives have interviewed several witnesses at the scene and collected evidence, including bullet casings, but no arrests have been made yet.