San Diego

Friends Mourn Beloved Chef, Bar Manager Shot to Death in the Gaslamp

Friends and family identified the slain man as a revered bar manager and executive chef at the Gaslamp Quarter's Myst Lounge

Friends, family, co-workers and bar patrons gathered Monday night to celebrate the life of a beloved chef who was shot and killed in the Gaslamp Quarters hours earlier.

Joseph Aaron Holtz, 33, was shot at least once in the chest just before 2 a.m. after he and a companion got in a confrontation with another group near the intersection of 5th Avenue and Market Street.

Friends and family said Joey Holtz was a bar manager and executive chef at Myst Lounge.

"A very good guy; kind heart," is how Holtz's friend Shaun Spearman described him. "Would take care of anybody, looked out for anybody. He had just a big heart."

At a prayer vigil hosted for Holtz at the Embarcadero Marina Park, people who cared about him described him in a similar fashion.

Myst Lounge General Manager Corey Nigrelli described Holtz as "My backbone. My right-hand man."

"He was such a good person that I felt obliged to be here," Myst Lounge patron Corey Goodwyn said.

A recycled social media post spreading the word about Holtz' vigil said he was a loving father.

"Joey would jump out of a plane with no parachute to protect that little 3-year-old," friend Tony Taylor said. "He took him everywhere."

Flowers were placed outside the Myst Lounge, which had curtains covering the closed door Monday afternoon. 

Witnesses to the shooting raced to help Holtz until medics arrived, but they were unable to save him. He was pronounced dead at the scene about 20 minutes after he was shot, SDPD Lt. Matt Dobbs said.

Two suspects, who witnesses reported leaving the scene in a taxi, were located less than a mile from where the shooting occurred. The men were taken into custody for questioning, Dobbs said. 

Jonathan Hernandez, 23, was arrested and booked into jail on a first-degree murder charge. He was scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday. 

However, on Wednesday, San Diego police homicide detectives said Hernandez was a person of interest, not a suspect.

"After discussing the developments with the District Attorney's Office, no charges will be filed at this time pending further investigation," Lt. Matt Dobbs said in a written release. 

Dobbs said it's believed there were many witnesses to the shooting who have not come forward. 

Anyone with information can call the San Diego Police Department's non-emergency number at (619) 531-2000.

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