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Questions surround mysterious shooting of Wilmington man

For Daniel Delgado’s 20th birthday, he had planned a low-key road trip with friends to bask in the Arizona sun.

But eight days earlier, on July 5, Delgado was gunned down while driving a friend home from a small Fourth of July celebration. Instead, friends and family gathered at his Wilmington home on the day he would have turned 20 to mourn him. 

There was a chocolate cake, and at one point, everyone sang "Happy Birthday." People wore red, his favorite color, as they released red and white balloons with messages to the slain 19-year-old.

“He was just a young kid, enjoying life, enjoying the Fourth of July,” said his aunt Gabby Banales.

Delgado had no gang ties. Police have ruled out road rage as a motive and are seeking information from the public to determine why Delgado was shot. 

Family members described Delgado as an outgoing, happy-go-lucky man who had recently started a car washing business with his older brother. He previously worked at a car rental business near the airport and had been laid off because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Delgado loved soccer, playing video games and hanging out with family and friends. 

“He was never in a bad mood,” Banales said. Delgado lived with Banales and her husband, along with their two children and their grandparents.

Delgado spent the July 4 holiday at his house with family, popping fireworks and grilling ribs, chicken and hot dogs.  At the end of the night, Delgado left the house to drive a friend home. 

At 1:45 a.m., Delgado was driving a burgundy Honda Accord in the area of East Pacific Coast Highway and Drumm Avenue with two others inside when a person inside a car behind him began shooting, and Delgado was struck. 

At about 2:20 a.m., his mother, Sonia Banales received a phone call from a friend who was in the car with Delgado. His parents rushed to the hospital only to be met with news that Delgado didn’t survive the shooting. 

Sonia Banales said she will miss her son’s morning and night texts.

“He was my baby, so it’s pretty tough,” she said. 

Ashley Delgado, a cousin, said Delgado was able to enter a room and cheer everyone up. 

“He would have this light to him where he would put a smile on everyone’s faces,” she said. 

Other family members said they were shocked and saddened by the killing. 

“He was never involved in anything,” said his cousin Caroline Villagran. “He made friends everywhere. It’s a surprise that someone would have an issue with him in the first place.” 

Christina Banales, 26, said she will miss seeing Delgado as she’s coming home from work. Delgado lived next door to her and would often greet her when she got home. 

“He had a good vibe around him,” she said. “He was funny, he was kind.”

Banales joined the gathering Monday for Delgado, where she wrote a message to Delgado and placed it inside her balloon. 

Gabby Banales, his aunt, also wrote a message. She wrote that the shooting should not have happened. Delgado should still be here.

Anyone with information is asked to call (310) 726-7884 or (310) 726-7887. Those who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477.

Contact the Homicide Report. Follow @nicolesantacruz and @latimeshomicide on Twitter.

Photo: Daniel Delgado, center, on his 19th birthday with two aunts and his grandmother. Credit: family photo

Update, 7/18/2020: Ashley Delgado's comments have been updated. A previous version said her family lost an uncle, Delgado was speaking in the hypothetical. 

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