LOS ANGELES (AP) — A 21-year-old Army veteran was shot to death Sunday only months after his return from Afghanistan, police said.
Francisco Garcia had left a party at his girlfriend's house and was on a sidewalk in the San Fernando Valley around 2 a.m. Sunday when two cars pulled up. A man got out of one vehicle, smashed a beer bottle on the ground and yelled at Garcia before going back to the second car to grab a gun, police said.
Garcia died at the scene. No one else was injured.
Los Angeles police Lt. Paul Vernon told reporters that "the ironies are obvious. To survive as a soldier in an overseas conflict, only to be killed in your neighborhood upon your return."
Los Angeles police detective Juan Santa told The Associated Press that Garcia is believed to have returned from Afghanistan over the summer.
It was initially reported that the party was held to celebrate Garcia's return to the United States, but Santa said that was not clear yet based on the information police had.
Police believe the shooter targeted Garcia after a dispute Saturday. No arrests have been made.
Detectives do not believe those involved had been at the party.
"It appears Francisco was the target of the attack," Vernon said. "Apparently, a simmering dispute had boiled over during the night, and this suspect came looking for Francisco. Figuring out the dispute should lead us to the shooter."
Authorities talked to several witnesses and collected evidence, including several bullet casings.
Brian Enriquez, 21, told the Los Angeles Times that he, Garcia and a group of friends left Garcia's girlfriend's house when she decided to go to sleep. They headed to another gathering when the cars pulled up.
Enriquez said he had never seen them before and does not know why they would kill Garcia, whom he had known since middle school.
He said the shooter said, "Are you ready for this?" before opening fire.
"He was a very loving, caring person," Enriquez said. "He would always have a smile on his face. An all-around amazing individual."
Mourners left flowers at the spot of the shooting.
Garcia's friend, Fernando Mora, 25, crouched down to pray on the sidewalk where the veteran died. He said Garcia had recently told him he had lost fellow troops in Afghanistan.
"He came back alive," Mora told the Los Angeles Times. "So to die like this, it's not right."
Mora brought flowers, candles and his 6-month-old son, Mason, to the impromptu memorial.