A security guard shot to death while protecting a temporary homeless shelter in San Diego’s East Village neighborhood was remembered at a vigil Monday by the people who knew him best: his family, friends and those he served.
“Ernie was a beautiful man. He took care of his kids, he took care of family, he took care of loved ones,” Shelly Buchanan said of her late husband.
Ernie 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.
The father of six was apparently attacked at random. 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.
Photos: Wife, Friends Mourn Slain Alpha Project Security Guard at Vigil
"It's a senseless act that should have never happened,” Buchanan’s wife said.
The memory of Ernie Buchanan and his commitment to the community brought more than 100 loved ones to the Alpha Project shelter Monday night for a candlelight vigil. The crowd was so large that it spilled out onto Imperial Avenue, and the show of support meant everything to Shelley Buchanan.
“There is no words. Everything. It means everything,” she said.
His death was felt by many at the shelter.
“He was just a part of the family. He fed us every night. He definitely went over the top on his job,” resident Sabrina Hilbert told NBC 7. "He always kept people up – right before he got shot, we were all joking about the Ohio State game."
Ernie Buchanan was working unarmed at the time of the shooting, and SDPD has not determined a motive in the attack. Investigators aren’t considering the shooting an attack on the Alpha Project.
"Protecting people and this is what he gets,” Shelley Buchanan said. "Somebody that didn't know him. Somebody who didn't know him or have any idea -- they took the best man from us."
Candles, flowers, and balloons were placed outside the shelter to celebrate Buchanan’s life, and the memorial tripled in size by the time Monday’s evening vigil was over. Alpha Project employees made shirts with an image of Buchanan on them, which read, “In Loving Memory / Ernest Buchanan.”
The Alpha Project said it will pay for Buchanan's funeral expenses.
"This job was Ernie,” Brandon Gates, a childhood friend of Ernie Buchanan said. “Ernie was a pillar of this community. This was about helping his community. This is about Ernie's life here."
The city told NBC 7 it isn't considering adding an armed security guard at the shelter because there is an SDPD mobile command station regularly stationed near the shelter.
“We don’t have any information at this time to conclude this terrible incident was meant to target the shelter itself, but we will continue to work with Alpha Project to protect public safety," a statement from SDPD said.