Investigators on Thursday are working to determine what prompted a drive-by shooting that killed two lifelong friends and injured another man on a South Los Angeles-area street as they released the names of the victims.
The L.A. County Sheriff's Department identified the victims as Jose Flores Velazquez and Alfredo Carrero, both 24 years old. Flores Velazquez's father told KTLA his son was actually 23.
The two young men became friends as children and grew up together on the same Florence-Firestone neighborhood street where their lives were taken away just after 7 p.m. Wednesday night.
Flores Velazquez was attending UC Irvine as a graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. in astrophysics, according to his LinkedIn page.
“He’s a very good student. He went to Harvard. He went to New York, Chicago ... He wanted to work for NASA … no more,” a tearful Ramon Flores said about his son Thursday morning.
Flores Velazquez was found dead in the 1100 block of East 68th street after someone called in the shooting.
The caller told officials a vehicle drove up and an argument ensued before the passenger opened fire, striking both men, said sheriff's Lt. Derrick Alfred.
Carrera was pronounced dead after being taken to a nearby hospital.
A third victim was also found with a gunshot wound about three houses away, but it was unclear if that person was targeted or was wounded by a stray bullet, Alfred said.
The unidentified third victim was apparently loading his daughter into his pickup when he heard the shots ring out and shielded her.
He was treated and released from a hospital Wednesday night, according to the lieutenant.
Authorities have not released his name.
Flores Velazquez had been at Carrera’s home to bring his friend a gift, his father said.
Carrera, who was about to be a first-time father, was planning to have a baby shower on Saturday, his aunt Michelle Garcia said.
Family members say the two victims were not involved in gangs or drugs and they have no idea why anyone would want to kill them.
UC Irvine released a statement Thursday following Flores Velazquez's killing, offering condolences to the young man's family and describing him as an "incredibly promising student in astrophysics" and a "rising star in his field."
"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," said James Bullock, a university dean who worked with Flores."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."
Investigators have not released a description of the suspects. Their vehicle was described only as a dark-colored sedan.
Anyone with further information can contact Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.