San Diego

Man Killed in Horton Plaza Homicide Identified as Active Duty Navy Service Member

The confrontation on the seventh floor of Horton Plaza, a popular mall in Downtown San Diego, turned deadly late Saturday night

The victim killed in a weekend shooting at San Diego's popular shopping complex, Horton Plaza, has been identified as an active-duty Navy service member.

James Celani, 43, of San Diego, was on the seventh floor of Horton Plaza just outside the Mad House Comedy Club at approximately 11:46 p.m. Saturday with his cousin when the shooting happened, San Diego police (SDPD) said. 

When officers arrived, they found the two men with gunshot wounds. 

The preliminary investigation has revealed that Celani and his cousin were confronted by two men for unknown reasons just before the shooting, Holden said. During the confrontation, a suspect opened fire and shot both victims. 

Celani was shot in his chest and taken to UC San Diego Medical Center. Despite life-saving measures, he was pronounced dead at the hospital. 

Celani's death left a void in his friend's life.

“Just his character,” said Ed Hiner. “What he brings to the table, he's a person that sacrifices for others. Always has. And just him being that kind of role model for the rest of the world. “

Ed Hiner is a retired Navy SEAL Lt. Commander. For years he sat five feet away from Celani, who was a Navy pilot and later worked with drone technology.

As part of Naval Special Warfare, Celani supported Navy SEAL teams working tactical operations.

“He helped develop the curriculum and tactics we use on the battlefield. So a very integral part of Naval Special Warfare," explained Hiner.

The second victim, a 29-year-old Riverside resident, was shot in the leg. He is expected to survive. 

The suspects ran north through Horton Plaza after the shooting.

The first suspect is described as a man in his mid to late 20s armed with a handgun. He was approximately 5 feet 6 inches tall to 6 feet 3 inches tall with a thin build. He was last seen wearing a red T-shirt and jeans. 

A second suspect is described as a man in his mid to late 20s, approximately 5 feet 6 inches tall to 6 feet 3 inches tall with a medium build. He was last seen wearing dark clothing. 

No arrests have been made. 

The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to call the Homicide Unit at (619) 531-2293 or Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.

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