Crime & Justice

Veteran killed after homecoming party never served in Afghanistan, Army confirms (updated)

Army veteran Francisco Garcia, who had recently returned from Afghanistan, was shot and killed early Sunday at a homecoming party organized by his girlfriend, according to police. An 18-year-old man has been arrested and booked for murder.
Army veteran Francisco Garcia, who had recently returned from Afghanistan, was shot and killed early Sunday at a homecoming party organized by his girlfriend, according to police. An 18-year-old man has been arrested and booked for murder.
NBC4

A veteran shot and killed following a homecoming party over the weekend never served in Afghanistan, contrary to information provided by the Los Angeles Police Department, a spokesperson for the U.S. Army confirmed to KPCC.

Eighteen-year-old Vincent Estrada was arrested on suspicion of killing Francisco Garcia, 21, an Army veteran who was attending a homecoming party in Sylmar on Saturday night.

An LAPD press release erroneously reported that Garcia was a veteran of the conflict in Afghanistan. But Julie Halpin — a spokeswoman at Fort Drum in New York, where Garcia served — confirmed to KPCC that Garcia had never been deployed overseas. The story was first reported by CBS L.A.

Estrada was arrested and booked on suspicion of murder on Tuesday, Los Angeles police said in a statement.

Garcia had been attending a party organized by his girlfriend on Saturday, police said. The party spilled over into the early morning hours Sunday and had moved up the street when a dispute broke out and Garcia was shot and killed, according to police.

The police now say they were informed of Garcia's Army deployment by family members.

"During the investigation the initial information gathered from family and friends led us to believe that he was returning from abroad," the LAPD's Jane Kim told KPCC. "The information is only partially accurate. We haven’t been able to verify his military history."

Garcia joined the Army in June 2012, according to Fort Drum's Halpin, before leaving in July of this year. He was a cannon crew member, known in military parlance as "13 Bravo," and was a private at the time of his discharge, Halpin said.

The LAPD's Lt. Paul Vernon had previously said that Garcia's death was ironic, saying that he had served overseas only to be killed in his old neighborhood upon his return.

Police said Garcia was standing on the west sidewalk on Dronefield Street north of Astoria Street when two cars stopped nearby. A man identified by police as Estrada exited a dark SUV, smashed a beer bottle on the ground and yelled at Garcia, according to police. He then walked to a white car behind the SUV, got a handgun from someone inside and started shooting, striking Garcia, who died at the scene, police said.

According to the statement, there may have been a dispute earlier in the evening and Estrada may have been targeting Garcia specifically.

Hundreds turned out Sunday night at a roadside memorial to honor Garcia, according to NBC4.

Estrada was being held on $1 million bail.

This story has been updated.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Francisco Garcia's age. KPCC regrets the error.