Four years after a Cal State Long Beach honor student was fatally shot in West Compton as he sat in his car with a friend, authorities offered a reward Tuesday in hopes of solving the case.
Estephan Hernandez, 21, was set to graduate in the spring with a degree in sociology when he was “gunned down for no apparent reason” on Sept. 28, 2017, said Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Brandon Dean.
Hernandez was sitting in his vehicle with another student around 9:30 p.m. on East 148th Street, between Bahama and Loness avenues, when a black sedan drove up and someone inside opened fire, Dean said.
The shooter fired several rounds, wounding both Hernandez and his friend. Hernandez was pronounced dead a short time later, Dean said.
The black sedan was last seen heading west on 148th Street.
Dean described Hernandez as “a great individual and a good student” with no gang ties. But he said investigators are still unsure whether he was targeted.
“His windows were pretty tinted, so they would have to know his vehicle, so unknown if this was a random act or if he was specifically targeted,” Dean said, adding that it could have also been a case of mistaken identity.
The site of the killing is now the site of an ongoing makeshift memorial that family members have maintained.
Hernandez ultimately wanted to become a social worker or counselor and served as a group mentor for incoming Cal State Long Beach students, Dean said.
Wanda Lee, whose son was Hernandez’s best friend, called the victim an “angel” who brightened her home with his smile.
“Every single day that’s all I would ever see of Estephan, was this beautiful huge smile on his face,” she said.
Lee added that she couldn’t think of anything Hernandez had ever done wrong.
“My son, he cried many days, ‘Mom I just don’t understand why. He did nothing wrong to anyone,’” she said. “So we can do nothing but please pray for this family that we find the person or the people who did this to this kid, because he did not deserve it.”
Dean said there was ballistic evidence found at the scene, but detectives have yet to compile a suspect description.
A $10,000 reward is attached to information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.
Anyone with information can contact the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Anonymous tips may be submitted via 800-222-8477.