A family is mourning the death of a second young person lost to gun violence as loved ones gathered for a vigil Monday in the Long Beach parking lot where a 24-year-old woman was shot dead over the weekend.
Anna Marie Perez was out with friends around 2 a.m. Saturday when a conflict broke out nearby, a gunman opened fire and she was killed, according to investigators and her family.
Long Beach police have said she was not believed to be involved in the verbal altercation that sparked the deadly gunfire near the corner of Pacific Avenue and Fourth Street. Anna's grandmother Ann Hernandez said she was killed "in the crossfire."
When officers found Perez, she had been struck in the torso by gunfire, Long Beach police say. She died at the scene.
Dozens of people — among them her relatives, friends and coworkers — returned to the site Monday night, where they prayed together, wrote notes and released pink balloons into the sky to celebrate her life.
"She was a beautiful, bright, happy girl," said her mother, Brenda Colon. "I don't know why they did this to her."
Perez was dedicated to her job as a caregiver at Sunrise of La Palma, a senior living community, her colleague Dorothy Rios said.
"We're all pretty devastated by it, because she was a big part of our lives," a tearful Rios told KTLA. "We're at work more than we're at home, so we were around her every single day. So to hear about what happened, we were all shocked."
At the time of her death, Perez had been planning to enroll Cypress College with the goal of becoming a registered nurse, Colon said.
"The person that killed her took all that away," she said. "They don't know how bad they hurt Anna's family."
Investigators are still searching for a suspect. Witnesses describe the gunman as an African-American man, who police said was last seen fleeing the shooting scene in a sedan of unknown color.
Two decades ago, the victim's mother's brother was shot and killed, also in Long Beach.
Perez's uncle Roger Hernandez and his girlfriend were standing together in 1998 when both were fatally struck by the same bullet. The double homicide, believed to be gang-related, was never solved.
Roger Hernandez was 17 when he was killed, according to the Long Beach Press-Telegram.
"If this person could come forward," Colon said of her daughter's killer, "it'll give me a relief, and it'll give me closure and peace of mind."
The family has set up a GoFundMe campaign to help raise money to cover Perez's memorial costs.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the family relationships among Anna Marie Perez, the 1998 victim (her uncle Roger Hernandez), and Anna's mother Brenda Colon. It also incorrectly described police statements about the shooting. The story has been updated.