While police focus on finding justice for the victims of Wednesday night’s deadly shooting at a Church’s Chicken in Otay Mesa, the community in that neighborhood and beyond is emphasizing unity in the early stages of their healing process.
5:35 p.m. Friday marked 48 hours since a gunman walked into the restaurant on Del Sol Boulevard and fired several rounds at employees from across the counter. Investigators said the shooting was the culmination of an argument between the suspect and employees over a counterfeit bill.
The barrage of bullets killed Maribel Ibañez and severely injured Mario Rojas and Humberto Ruiz. Rojas and Ruiz both have longs roads to recovery from physical and emotional trauma. A 6 p.m. vigil outside the restaurant was planned with all three in mind.
People have been stopping by the restaurant to leave flowers and candles in honor of the victims. Even complete strangers came by to pay their respects, and to reflect on the tragedy.
“People struggle, people just try to go to work, just to provide for their families, and it's just horrible that someone can do something and take a life,” Ashley Reyes said. She and her mother didn’t know any of the victims but stopped by Friday afternoon to leave a burning candle.
“The community comes together when it needs to, and in this case, I really hope there's a lot of people tonight coming together,” Reyes said.
Cornelius Bowser, a well-known community leader, gun violence prevention advocate and bishop, praised the community for its show of support.
“Hopefully we get the community to come together to get the message out there, speaking out against violence that is happening, but also giving the family an opportunity to know you're supported, we love you, we care about you,” Bowser said.
San Diego Chief of Police David Nisleit told NBC 7 Friday afternoon there were no updates on the search for the shooter.
A few hours after the shooting, the department released a grainy photo of the car they believe the suspect used to flee the scene Wednesday night, and offered a description of the man that included the clothes he was wearing at the time of the shooting.
There were no surveillance cameras inside the restaurant.
The restaurant is roughly 10 minutes away from the border. Police said they cannot confirm if the suspect fled to Mexico, but said investigators will look at surveillance footage from the nearby San Ysidro and Otay Mesa international ports of entry.
Anyone with information on the shooting was asked to call the SDPD Homicide Unit at (619)531-2293 or Crime Stoppers at (888)580-8477.
The San Diego County District Attorney’s Victim Services Division announced Friday that those affected by the shooting should contact the department for any medical and emotional needs.
Victims may receive services and resources by calling the Victim Services Division at (619) 531-4041. The department is supported by the State of California’s Victim Compensation Board.