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Searching for Suspect, SDPD Digs Into Slain Homeless Shelter Security Guard's Past

Buchanan's criminal background is what helped him get him hired at the Alpha Project, McElroy said.

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The investigation continues as San Diego police look for the suspect who killed 44-year-old Alpha Project security guard Ernest Buchanan.

Buchanan was on the clock Saturday night outside of the nonprofit Alpha Project’s temporary homeless shelter on Imperial Avenue when shots rang out at around 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 28.

He was shot several times and still had the strength to call 911. Unfortunately for his family, his friends, and for the community he worked so hard to protect and uplift, he succumbed to his injuries at the hospital that night.

"This guy was making big difference in the community in a positive way," described Alpha Project CEO, president, Bob McElroy.

Buchanan was a friend and mentor to many people including Anthony Hawkins.

"He was showing us it's OK to go to work, you don't have to terrorize the town; it's ok to turn your life around," Hawkins said.

But Buchanan's life was not always in order, according to Hawkins -- At some point, he was involved in gang activity.

Hawkins noted that Buchanan has a long criminal history dating back to 1997, but there have not been any cases since 2014. San Diego police said Tuesday that detectives are digging into those previous cases, interviewing friends and enemies.

Buchanan's criminal background is what helped him get him hired at the Alpha Project, McElroy said. Buchanan was hired as a security guard in 2014 because he had a rap sheet, not a resume, and showed that he turned his life around.

"I want somebody that's been there and done that," McElroy said.

McElroy said he looks for that kind of real experience so that his employees can inspire their homeless residents and be a role model. Buchanan was a great role model, he said.

Police also said they are using all digital evidence at their disposal, including surveillance inside and outside of the Alpha Project.

Hawkins wants to see justice for his mentor who he had just talked with two days before Buchanan died, saying it is a conversation he will never forget.

"Just about life, just keep doing what you're doing. (Buchanan said,) 'I like your positivity man. I like it, I like it.' That is going to stick with me forever," Hawkins told NBC 7.

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