Max Garcia’s friends said they couldn’t celebrate his life without, in their late pal’s words, “pouring one out for the homies.” So that’s what they did Monday night at Centennial Park in northwest Las Vegas.
As they cracked open beers and held up candles, they gathered in a circle to remember the 27-year-old father of two who was fatally shot in a north valley shopping center over the weekend.
Nearby, his 2-year-old daughter, Ripley Garcia, stood, holding two candles and watching in awe as the crowd of about 100 remembered her dad.
“He wanted to be everything he could for her,” Ripley’s mother, Alexis Mendoza, said. “She was the light of his life. And I want to, and want all of you to, help her know that.”
His eldest daughter, Kayden Garcia, 8, lives out of state.
Max Garcia was found dead on a sidewalk Saturday morning with multiple gunshot wounds at the Shadow Mountain Marketplace, 6475 N. Decatur Blvd. Metropolitan Police Department detectives suspect his body had been there for more than seven hours.
The coroner’s office identified Garcia on Monday morning and ruled his death a homicide.
Outside a SkinnyFats eatery in the shopping center on Monday, there were seven candles — one for each hour he lay there. There was also a bouquet of red roses. His friend, Brandon Morgan, had known him since he was 9. On Monday, he scribbled “R.I.P. Max” in bubble letters on a canvas outside the restaurant. Underneath, he added “Your friends and family will miss you.”
Metro homicide Lt. Ray Spencer said officers used security footage from the complex to determine that Garcia was shot and killed about 12:45 a.m. Police arrested Brian Love, 26, a security guard who was on duty at the time and assigned to patrol the shopping center.
The footage showed the two briefly talking before the guard opened fire, Spencer said, but there was no indication that there had been a struggle. Garcia had been asleep on the sidewalk just prior to the shooting.
After that, the guard got into his security car and drove away, according to the footage. Police found him Saturday evening at his apartment.
“He did not deserve the brutality that was brought upon him,” his friend, Brittney Black, shouted during Monday night’s vigil. “He needed help. He needed someone there. … Because Max was a beautiful soul.”
Lexi Gibson, 28, remembered her boyfriend as a charismatic, loving, “fighter for life, his friends and his family.” He called her his unicorn.
She said she spent the last four days with Garcia at her home in Las Vegas, but he told her that he wanted to prove to her that he could make it on his own. He was planning to start training as a firefighter in Washington state.
On Friday night, he left to sleep on the streets. And just as he did for all of his friends before he left, he cleaned the house for her.
“He didn’t want to feel like he was imposing on me. I begged him not to sleep outside,” she said in tears. “He told me ‘It’s OK, when I get my (stuff) together, I’ll show up with a ring and you’ll be mine.’”
Max Garcia was a stellar volleyball player who loved to dance, according to friends.
“He was on the path of finding himself, and he was set out to get a new job,” said Kimber McMillan, Garcia’s friend from Shadow Ridge High School. “Max was the kindest, most giving person you would ever meet in your life. He wasn’t our friend; he was our brother.”
In a Facebook post from April, Garcia opened up about his struggles.
“What does someone do when every attempt fails, because there’s so much to accomplish. I haven’t received any help literally from anyone! Opportunities must be denied cause I dont have requirements needed. Scared to take jobs cause of my living situation, cause I dont wanna burn any bridges. It’s not excuses it’s my reality!” he wrote.
“Now I’m at the point where I have no interests in fighting back anymore. Literally I feel as if everything inside me has died as I’m no longer the same person I once was … I’m so positive and yet nothing good comes my way. I refuse to pan handle or fly a sign or scam! I’m seriously at my last string.”
To his friends, Garcia was the kind of man that would protect his friends and family, give them a hug, or tickle you just to force you to smile and shake off the sadness. Four years ago, his life was torn up when his best friend was shot in a Waffle House in Fort Myers, Florida, and died in a car crash on the way to the hospital, McMillan said.
Love faces one count of open murder with a deadly weapon. Denied bail, he remained in custody Monday at the Clark County Detention Center awaiting a status hearing on Tuesday morning.
Another vigil for Garcia is planned for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the same SkinnyFats, near Decatur and the 215 Beltway.