A Cathedral Catholic High School teacher was shot and killed in San Diego’s North Park community Monday morning, according to the Catholic Diocese of San Diego, and police are searching for a suspect.
The shooting was reported just before 7:15 a.m. along the 4500 block of Kansas Street, just west of 30th Street, SDPD Officer Scott Lockwood said.
At the scene, a man was found shot on the sidewalk, Lockwood said. Medics attempted to revive the man but he was pronounced dead at the scene.
In a letter to parents and staff of Cathedral Catholic High School Monday morning, the school said San Diego police informed faculty the man killed was one of their own; his name was Mario Fierro, and he was a beloved teacher at the school, their letter confirmed.
"Mario was young, vibrant and full of life. All of us loved him. He was a fantastic teacher and a great human being," the letter read.
SDPD has not yet identified the victim.
During their investigation, homicide detectives learned the victim may have been involved in an altercation with a man in jeans and a zip-up top. The man was seen driving northbound on Kansas Street in a small, older vehicle. The suspect remains at large.
Cathedral Catholic canceled classes, in-person and online, until Thursday and said all parents should pick up their students as soon as possible. Grief counselors will be available for students and staff, the school said.
"Obviously, this is a shock. Our prayers go out to Mario's friends and family," the letter read;
The Catholic Diocese of San Diego said Fierro graduated from Cathedral Catholic in 2002 and returned to teach social science 14 years later.
"He was a gifted teacher and a great human being," Kevin Eckery, a spokesperson for the diocese said. He also served as the Athletic Director at Notre Dame Academy, an elementary/middle school tied to the high school.
A candlelight vigil was organized on campus Monday night, and attracted more than 100 people from the school community.
"Sad. Just a profound sense of loss for our community," Cathedral principal Kevin Calkins told NBC 7 at the vigil.
Calkins had a special relationship with Fierro. He said the two often leaned on each other for support on tough days.
"He was a very passionate teacher. He loved teaching, loved young people. You went into his classroom, you saw the energy, you felt the energy," he added.
Fellow teachers and coaches share Calkins' sense of loss.
"We are very very sad about the news we recived today. Mr. Fierro was so loved with our students," Sister Marie Pascale said.
Fellow coach Jeff Nolan echoed Calkins' appreciation for Fierro's passion in the classroom and on the field.
"He was like passion defined because he had passion for life, passion for his job, passion for coaching, passion for his faith," Norton said.
A fund was set up to help Fierro's family with funeral costs and other needs.
Investigators say they are looking for one gunman who fleed north on Kansas Street in a small older vehicle.
SDPD has recovered images from at least two home security cameras nearly a block away. A motive has yet to be established, but investigators told NBC 7the shooting incident may have stemmed from an argument between both men.
SDPD homicide detectives remained at the scene through the morning to investigate. Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to call SDPD's Homicide Unit at (619) 531-2293 or Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.