It was a sunny afternoon on Aug. 15, 2019 in Pacoima when 46-year-old Jabali Dumas got off work at a trash company and stopped at a convenience store in the 11900 block of Foothill Boulevard for a cold drink. He did that often, for years. It was a neighborhood he knew well.
But it was this day when LAPD Valley Bureau Homicide detectives say someone walked up on Dumas and fired multiple shots that killed him. And now – less than two years since the killing – they say they know who they’re after.
“Locate this individual by the name of Omar Cardenas,” says LAPD Detective Edwin Ayala. “He’s 26 years old now, 5-foot-7 and about 300 pounds.”
Ayala says Cardenas has changed his appearance – a 2018 mug shot shows him with a beard but by the time of Dumas’ killing. He is clean shaven in the surveillance video.
Get Southern California news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC LA newsletters.
That video from the strip mall where this happened shows the moment of the slaying. Police believe Dumas had a verbal exchange with Cardenas before the alleged shooter went to his car and came back with a gun.
The multiple angles of cameras shows what happened next – bullets fly, customers duck for cover – and Dumas is hit in the head, keels over and falls into a row of bushes. Cardenas is then seen making a run for it and then disappears.
In the months since the killing, Dumas’ family says they continue to struggle with his loss. Thomas Ware, Dumas’ older brother, says the family lost a light.
Get Los Angeles's latest local news on crime, entertainment, weather, schools, COVID, cost of living and more. Here's your go-to source for today's LA news.
“My little brother...you could be in his presence for 5 minutes and you may have just met him," Ware says. "But he’s gonna have you smiling."
Ware says his brother hung on for his life for nearly four days after the shooting.
“The neurosurgeon had to explain everything to us, the way the bullet came in, the damage the bullet caused and she said there is no scientific procedure that exists to overcome the damage that was done to my brother’s brain," he says. "It literally severed his brain."
Dumas’ son and namesake shared a photo of him and his dad just months before the killing – standing in the same parking lot where it happened.
“He was an amazing dad,” Jabali Dumas, Jr. says. “He made it a priority to text me every morning telling me that he loves me. He would lecture me every morning and I hated it at the time but I find myself recalling a lot of the wisdom he taught me over the years.”
Some of that wisdom still echoes in his mind today, living his life without his dad.
“He said it all the time, ‘in case something happens to me, in case something happens to me.’”
Jabali Jr. says he’s learned the hard way how important it is to spend time with those you love.
“Life is short,” he says. “And people are evil and that’s how it is. So the message really is appreciate who’s around you because everything is temporary.”
The family says they take comfort in knowing LAPD has a lead on the alleged killer. Detective Ayala says Cardenas and his brother both have long criminal histories and while their own family claims to not have contact with Omar, police believe he could still be in the area.
“Someone knows who this person is,” Dumas’ sister-in-law Tessa Ware says. “He did something wrong. He took someone special away from us and I think someone should say something.”
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Omar Cardenas is asked to contact LAPD’s CrimeStoppers at www.LACrimeStoppers.org or by calling – even anonymously – to 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
“We gotta have faith in something,” Tessa says. “And I feel like we have faith in this. This is an opportunity. He was a great, great father, a brother, a son, he’s missed by so many of us, we love him and we miss him so much.”