A California special education teacher was shot dead last week after attempting to chase down a vehicle whose occupants had allegedly fired at his car moments earlier.
Jaime Perez, 55, was killed in his car on Dec. 1 after unknown occupants of another vehicle opened fire on the Long Beach, California teacher, police said. The shooting took place shortly before 7:30 a.m.
Perez, who sustained gunshot wounds to his upper torso, was transported to a nearby hospital where he later died.
The teacher was parked in his car on Eucalyptus Avenue in Long Beach when the suspect vehicle pulled up alongside him, detectives said. At least two occupants exited the vehicle and opened fire when Perez attempted to speed away.
“The preliminary investigation revealed the victim was inside his parked vehicle preparing to pull from the curb on Eucalyptus Avenue when the suspect pulled next to him and stopped,” a police press release stated. “At least two suspects exited the suspect vehicle and approached the victim’s vehicle. The victim accelerated from the curb, and at least one suspect immediately began firing gunshots at the victim before running back to the suspect vehicle and fleeing.”
A neighbor whose security cameras captured the shooting said that two men tried to open the driver-side door of Perez’s vehicle before the teacher slammed it shut and drove off, according to the Long Beach Post.
Perez allegedly then flipped around and chased the vehicle in question before the two cars collided, at which point the assailants opened fire once again.
“Witnesses observed at least one suspect shooting at the victim's vehicle before fleeing southbound Magnolia Avenue,” police stated.
It’s unclear whether the shooting was targeted or occurred at random, and authorities have yet to announce a possible motive in the slaying. The gunmen were wearing masks and dark clothing, according to law enforcement.
Perez’s family said they suspect the shooting was the result of a botched carjacking.
“He was always fighting back,” his youngest son Calvin told the Long Beach Post. “Even as a teenager, he always fought for what was right.”
The suspected shooters are still at large, authorities said. The case remains an open investigation.
"Any loss of life is tragic and we will continue to investigate and hold those responsible accountable for their crime," Allison Gallagher, a public information officer for Long Beach Police Department, told Oxygen.com.
Relatives of Perez described him as a “happy” and “talkative” family man.
“He was a superhero in my eyes,” his son Calvin added.
The family has since held a vigil for the late teacher.
“It’s hard to process the pain,” Jaime’s father, Salvador Perez, told the Long Beach Post.
Perez was a special education science teacher at Manuel Dominguez High School in the Compton Unified School District. He’d taught in the district for 16 years. School officials called his sudden death a "tremendous loss."
"If you speak with anyone, they would tell you that Mr. Perez was a very sweet man," principal Caleb Oliver told Oxygen.com. "He went out of his way to accommodate others. He loved his students and went above and beyond for them."
Perez's students agreed.
“He was just an amazing teacher,” his former student Alex Carillo told KCBS-TV. “One of the things that will stay with me the most was his patience and I think I will try to, because of him I’ll try to be a lot more patient than usual.”
Perez, described as an avid outdoors enthusiast, was also remembered by colleagues as a driven teacher who was dedicated to his students.
“The thing I’ll miss the most, I’m sure on campus is his love for our students there, you know, his love for our students,” teaching assistant Jackie Hankins said.
Anyone with any information regarding the alleged shooting is asked to call Long Beach homicide detectives at 562-570-7244 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
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