Elizabeth Juarez thought her son was out of harm’s way when he was discharged by the United States Army, the specter of her son dying overseas in combat finally evaporating, no longer to be felt.

Enter Chicago and its scourge of gang violence. Chicago, the city where she raised her boy. Chicago, the town that Army vet Abner Garcia returned to, to help at the local YMCA by being a youth mentor. And to better himself by studying criminal justice at a local university, to one day serve and protect the metropolis he so loved.

A potential, unfortunately, he’ll never realize.

Garcia, just 23 years old, was gunned down and murdered early Saturday while driving on South Pulaski Road. A van, with passengers inside flashing gang signs, pulled up alongside his vehicle, started yelling, and then opened fire.

The former service member was pronounced dead at 5:45 am at Mount Sinai Hospital — according to the Cook County medical examiner.

This from the Chicago Tribune:

The law enforcement sources said Garcia has no known gang affiliation.

“There was no confrontation, no confrontation at all,” Juarez said. “The crisis came out of nowhere.”

Garcia … joined the military soon after graduating, Juarez said. He served at a military base in Anchorage while attending the University of Alaska at Anchorage.

Garcia was part of a mentoring program at the YMCA that pairs youths with veterans, said Eddie Bocanegra, who founded the Urban Warriors program and knew Garcia and his family.

“The youth gravitated toward him,” said Bocanegra, who spent Saturday counseling youths and veterans in the Urban Warriors program. “He has this kind of cool swagger.”

In their original story, the Tribune also embedded the following audio clip, which is Garcia talking about the mentoring program, his experience in the Army, and more: