Fellow EMTs remembered their coworker and friend, an East County man who died several days after an incident in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter, as a man they would trust with their own life.
Conner Kepple, who died Thursday on his 21st birthday, was a former Granite Hills High School student. San Diego Police investigators say Kepple was involved in a 'violent confrontation' in the Gaslamp Quarter on March 5, five days before his death.
SDPD homicide detectives are investigating the young man’s death which, at this point, is considered suspicious.
Investigators have interviewed several witnesses and people involved in the scuffle, but there are no suspects at this point. Authorities say there were clearly signs of inflicted injury on Kepple, but they still do not have any confirmation that injuries from the fight lead to his death.
The San Diego County Medical Examiner (ME) will perform an autopsy to determine the cause of death. The results won't be available for several weeks.
Kepple's coworkers gathered Monday to remember him as a "phenomenal" work partner, always striving to be the best he could be.
"He always wanted to learn. He also did everything right," said Dylan Harper, a coworker and friend. "He always was ready and never nervous about anything."
Kepple worked as an EMT at MaxCare for about a year., He often delivered his patients to Sharp Memorial Hospital, the same facility where he died.
"It was just emotional because I was right next to the hospital at that time," said Harper. "I was maybe two blocks away. I, I couldn't work the rest of the day."
Bryce Picone, who knew Kepple in high school and helped him become an EMT, remembered his close friend as a caring and loving soul. Picone told his managers that Kepple was the type of guy that he trusted with his own life.
"He had the biggest heart of anyone I knew," Picone said. "Outside of work, people knew him as someone. When he was working, he was always concerned with the patient. He always wanted to know how he could help the person he was working with at that point in time. That's the type of man Conner was."
On Saturday, friends and family members held a memorial for Kepple and mourned his sudden passing.
"He could make you feel like you could talk to him about anything within the first 30 minutes of talking to him," Picone said.
Police are now creating a surveillancefigure out how the young man died, and if anyone had a hand in it. Investigators say Kepple visited several businesses in downtown San Diego on March 5, and they’re questioning multiple employees across those establishments, but say it's too early in the investigation to release the names of those businesses.
Police said they are examining surveillance video as well, and will want to look at the autopsy report before consulting with the District Attorney's office to assess if the actions warrant criminal prosecution.
In the meantime, friends, family and coworkers await answers.
"It's unexpected. We all lost a brother. Some of us lost a son. Some of us lost an uncle, an older brother and a younger brother," said Picone. "It's not supposed to be easy for anyone. It's hard to lose someone, especially at 21, on their birthday."