He survived a war. But Francisco Garcia did not survive urban violence.
Early Sunday morning, Nov. 9, Garcia was gunned down in front of Sylmar High School, only four months after having returned from active duty in Afghanistan. He was 21 and his death has been sorely felt in the community, which has not stopped visiting a makeshift altar along Dronfield Avenue full of flowers and candles and replete with an American flag.
Los Angeles police have arrested an 18-year-old man in connection with the murder. Vincent Estrada was detained Tuesday, Nov. 11, as he was driving with his parents in Sylmar, according to Lt. Paul Vernon, commanding officer of detectives at the LAPD Mission Division.
Estrada was booked for murder and is being held in the Van Nuys jail in lieu of $1 million bail.
It was unclear if Estrada was the one who shot and killed Garcia as he was standing on the 13200 block of Dronfield Avenue, in front of Sylmar High School.
Dispute Leads To Shooting
According to police, Garcia was with a group of people after attending a gathering at his girlfriend’s house when two cars stopped closed by. A man got out of a dark-colored SUV, smashed a beer bottle on the ground and yelled at Garcia from across the street.
Police said the man walked to a white Toyota or Honda behind the SUV, retrieved a handgun from an occupant and started shooting. Garcia was hit, and died at the scene.
“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.
Bob Woodford, a retired Navy veteran, showed up early Monday morning at the makeshift altar erected where Garcia died.
“I just came to pay my respects to a brother veteran,” said Woodford, as he lit a candle at the site.
“It’s really sad, such a young kid. It’s really ironic that he was in the war, he comes back and this tragedy happens,” Woodford added.
Dozens of people gathered at the site Sunday afternoon to pay their respects. Those who knew him said Garcia was a young man who was “good,” “centered,” and had a promising future after having served his country and making his family proud.
Family Seeking Help For Funeral
Garcia’s sister Valerie created a GoFundMe website to help collect funds for his funeral. At the time of publication, more than $6,000 of the $10,000 goal had been raised.
“On November 9th, 2014 God took another angel back home. Francisco Guadalupe Garcia, my big brother, a twenty one year old Army veteran who had just returned home after serving his term, passed away at a gathering with his friends after being shot by an unidentified gunman. Our Frankie had just been accepted to the California Highway Patrol academy where he sought to work extensively to provide for our family. He had just promised our parents that he would raise enough funds through his hard work to repair our home and help give us a better life. Unfortunately, God called him too early and he left his project unfinished. Once again, our hearts are broken because he departed to a mission where we know he will never come back,” Valerie wrote on the GoFundMe.com page.
“Frankie was known for having a big heart and helping anyone who needed assistance. He never sought for repayment or a simple ‘thank you’. He simply was satisfied with knowing that he had done his part to be a better civilian. This is perhaps because our parents, from a meek background, taught him the importance of aiding those who are less fortunate. Specifically, his friends describe that whenever they needed a ride, they knew who to call. Frankie always thought about us wherever he was. He would unexpectedly send us gifts and surprise us with visitations. Recently, he was extremely excited about repairing our home himself. He dedicated his weekends to install the wooden floors in our rooms that my mother so much wanted,” Valerie added.
“My brother, being the only male sibling in our family, always made sure that his sisters were happy. He constantly called and inquired about where I was, what was I doing and if I was ok. He provided a sense of security in our family. My sisters and I felt so protected and loved by him. Just two days ago he sat down with our youngest sister to give her a lecture about life,” she concluded.
Another sister, Jennifer, wrote: “My family and I are very thankful by your donations! We are devastated by what happened and planning a funeral is the last thing we want to think of but every single on one you is helping us tremendously! Thank you very much!
“My family would appreciate any monetary assistance for funeral expenses and associated costs to put my brother to rest. In addition, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has demonstrated their support during these difficult times. We have definitely felt so much love from everyone. There are no words to describe the gratitude that I feel for all the prayers and demonstrations of affection displayed by everyone. Thanks!”
If you want to donate to the Francisco Garcia GoFundMe account, visit http://www.gofundme.com/h0x0dg.
Anyone with any information regarding the shooting attack is asked to call LAPD Mission Division detectives at (818) 838-9948.