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UCI doctoral student one of two childhood friends killed in L.A. County drive-by shooting

jose flores.jpg
Jose Flores Velazquez, a physics doctoral student at UC Irvine, is seen in an image posted on the Northwestern.edu website. He was killed in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles County on Wednesday night.
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A doctoral student at UC Irvine was one of two men described as lifelong friends who were killed in a drive-by shooting Wednesday night in Los Angeles County. A third man nearby was injured.

The Los Angeles County coroner’s office Thursday confirmed the identities of the men who were slain.

Jose Flores Velazquez, 24, was a physics doctoral student at UCI.

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“He was one of the most hard-working people I’ve ever met,” said a former sister-in-law who asked not to be identified.

“Jose was an incredibly promising student in astrophysics and was a rising star in his field,” James Bullock, dean of UCI’s School of Physical Sciences, said in a statement Thursday.

Earlier this week, Flores Velazquez gave an “outstanding” talk on galaxy formation to a group of international researchers, said Bullock, who oversaw Flores Velazquez’s research.

Bullock described him as “brilliant” and a “sweet soul” who was liked by everyone.

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“We were fortunate that he came to UCI to pursue his Ph.D. His loss will be widely felt and mourned both on campus and in the community,” Bullock said.

Jason Flores, 18, said his brother loved physics and had his sites set on working at NASA.

Jason Flores, who also is studying physics, said he was “shocked that it happened.”

Flores Velazquez graduated from Cal Poly Pomona in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in physics, according to his brother and Flores Velazquez’s LinkedIn profile.

While an undergraduate, he had research assistant positions at Northwestern University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, according to his father, Ramon Flores, and LinkedIn.

Flores Velazquez and the other man killed, Alfredo Carrera, 24, grew up together six houses apart on the street where they were shot.

The men were parking an SUV in Carrera’s driveway and were saying goodbye to each other outside the car when the gunfire broke out, according to authorities.

Shots were reported just after 7 p.m. in the 1100 block of East 68th Street in the unincorporated Florence-Firestone neighborhood, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

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A caller told officials that a vehicle approached and a passenger pulled out a handgun. An argument ensued and shots rang out, Lt. Derrick Alfred said.

The suspect vehicle was described only as a dark-colored sedan.

Flores Velazquez died at the scene and Carrera was pronounced dead after being taken to a hospital. No weapon was found on the victims, authorities said.

The third man shot was three houses east, Alfred said. He had been loading his daughter into the backseat of a pickup when he heard shots and covered her with his body, Alfred said. He was taken to a hospital and later released.

It was unclear whether that person was targeted or was wounded by a stray bullet, Alfred said.

Carrera was about to become a first-time father with his girlfriend, according to his aunt Michelle Garcia. A baby shower was set for Saturday, she said.

Flores Velazquez was at Carrera’s home to drop off gifts before the shower.

“He was just delivering presents, being a great friend that he was,” Jason Flores said.

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Family members said the two were not involved in gangs or drugs and that they have no idea why anyone would want to kill them.

Julia Sclafani is a Daily Pilot staff writer.

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Updates:
3:47 PM, Aug. 15, 2019: This article was originally published at 8:25 a.m. and has been updated throughout with additional information and comments.

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