What was supposed to be a time full of anticipation and celebration turned tragic Wednesday night when a 24-year-old UC Irvine doctorate student and his childhood friend were killed in a drive-by shooting.
The shooting happened near the border of South Los Angeles and the Florence area. UCI doctorate student Jose Flores had just stopped by his the house of friend Alfredo Carrera to drop off gifts for a baby shower, family members said.
The two men were outside the residence when shots were fired in the 1100 block of East 68th Street, near Central Avenue, about 7:05 p.m. Deputies found Flores dead at the scene. Carrera and another man suffered gunshot wounds and were taken to a hospital, where Carrera died.
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The rear window of a Volkswagen Golf, parked outside the home where Flores left it, were shattered.
He was studying astrophysics at UCI, where he had caught the attention of his instructors.
"José was an incredibly promising student in astrophysics and was a rising star in his field," said Prof. James Bullock. "Just earlier this week, he gave an outstanding scientific talk on galaxy formation to an audience of international researchers.
"He was quite special, both because he was brilliant and because he was genuinely a sweet soul, a nice person who everyone liked. We were fortunate that he came to UCI to pursue his Ph.D. His loss will be widely felt and mourned both on campus and in the community. We want to offer our deepest condolences and support to José’s family and friends during this trying time. "
As police searched for clues, family members mourned. Carrera and his girlfriend were planning a baby shower for Saturday and were soon to be married, family members said.
"I'm not saying anyone deserves this, but he's the last person that did," said Flores' family member Alondra Palacio.
She said he was one of the hardest working people she'd ever met.
"I've known him since I was 12," she said. "He was my daughter's favorite uncle."
She said Flores was with his childhood friend, pulling into his friend's driveway when the gunman drove by and fired. The aunt of the friend identified him as Carrera.
She said he is expecting his first child soon.
"I don't know what the people who did it were thinking," Palacio said. "It's not justified."
No arrests were reported Thursday.
NBC4's Jonathan Lloyd contributed to this report.