Julius Lat used to always say he would never make it to age 30, said his fiancée Jessica Catalan. He didn’t.
He instead ended up fatally shot in the head Aug. 6 – at age 24 – with his death following two days later on Aug. 8.
While he may be gone, Catalan is making sure he’s not forgotten – and calling on anyone with information to come forward – as Lat’s killer is still on the loose.
Catalan is hoping the full story, rather than leaving the report of his death as a vague “group fight,” might jog some memories and result in some leads.
The story of Lat’s death actually starts two days prior to his shooting, with the death of Catalan’s 35-year-old cousin. The cousin, who lived with the couple, accidentally shot himself. Catalan, Lat and others had spent Aug. 6 at a car wash to raise funds for her cousin’s burial to honor his last wishes.
When Catalan and Lat returned to their home at South Freemont Avenue and East Calle Nevada, near the intersection of South Park Avenue and East Irvington Road, a neighbor told them some guy had been hanging out near their house all day.
The man had moved across the street and was in the liquor store by the time they returned.
“We didn’t know who he was or what he wanted,” Catalan said, adding she heard the guy had been acting suspiciously around the building, changing his clothes in the bushes, sitting on a bench next to a young girl.
Thinking he might have known her cousin who died, Catalan called her cousin’s girlfriend to come check out the guy to see if she recognized him. The girlfriend came by with about five or six guys, friends of the departed cousins, and the girlfriend bolted across at the street to the liquor store to check out the strange man.
“The guys went with her,” Catalan said. “Unfortunately, one out of the bunch was not a well-headed individual.”
She got about halfway across the street, realized she didn’t recognize him and then turned around. But the guys went to confront the strange man.
The non-well-headed friend “was already heated. Emotions were high. Everybody was not taking my cousin’s death very well,” Catalan said. It didn’t help the family learned that, after “busting their butts” with an all-day car wash raising funds for a burial, the cousin’s parents already picked to have him cremated.
Lat walked into this climate, into the group of guys that included five of the cousin’s friends and the man from the liquor store.
“He was telling everybody that’s enough, just leave it alone,” Catalan said of what she heard of the incident. “He said ‘Let’s go back to the house.’” In addition to Catalan, the house contained her three kids as well as one of her female cousins and that woman’s two kids.
“There were two women and five kids in the house,” Catalan said. “Julius wanted to make sure we were safe.”
They were. Julius wasn’t.
A man who had been standing off to the side – that didn’t even appear to be part of the fray – suddenly came forward and pulled a gun out of his backpack, Catalan said.
He aimed the gun at the “non-well-headed” cousin’s friend and pulled the trigger.
“He missed that friend, he missed another friend – and ended up hitting Julius in the head,” Catalan said. “His body fell on Suarez Tire Shop property.”
Police were on the scene immediately and Lat was taken to University Medical Center. Once in the operating room, however, surgeons could not operate.
“He started bleeding out of everywhere,” Catalan said. “The IV lines, the puncture wounds, everything. They thought the best thing to do was bandage him up and help him breathe.”
Catalan was still at the scene of the crime at the time, where her anxiety “shot through the roof” and her blood pressure started soaring.
She was taken to University Physicians Center – where she found out she was pregnant with Lat’s child.
She made her way to Lat’s hospital bedside as soon as she was able and stayed there until he was officially declared dead two days later.
Catalan miscarried near the end of October.
All this, and, yes, the killer is still on the loose.
“They got away through the neighborhood,” Catalan said of the two suspects. “There were witnesses but no one is coming forward.”
The initial report from police in August describe the suspects as: “Hispanic males, 18 to 25 years old. One male was 5’ 11” tall and wearing a black Raiders jersey. The other male was 5 7” tall with a thin build, wearing a light colored polo shirt and carrying a black backpack.”
Catalan reminds people they can remain anonymous when leaving any tips.
Her own phone calls to the police went from once a day, to once a week, to now once a month, on the sixth, the day Lat was shot.
The couple only knew each other for about six months, but had no doubt they clicked.
They met through a mutual friend when Lat was released from prison February after serving two years on a burglary charge. The two got tattoos of each other’s names two weeks after they met.
“He was soft spoken, very quiet and reserved,” Catalan said of the Hawaiian native. “I’m very loud, outspoken. He would laugh and say we level each other out.”
Her three kids, too, adored him, looked at him as a role model.
“He was a good guy, a stand-up guy,” she said. “He was all about respect. He was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Police – and Catalan – urge anyone with information on the suspects to call 911 or 88-CRIME.