Every night after cooking for Little Italy diners, Arcadio Guerra took a midnight walk through Patterson Park before returning home. Tuesday night, a gunman fatally interrupted his routine.
About 10:45 p.m., police said, Mr. Guerra, 46, a Guatemalan immigrant who was a year from becoming a U.S. citizen, was shot in the face in the park. Officers found him face down behind a bench near Patterson Park Avenue and Gough Street.
The slaying has unnerved his co-workers, family and friends, who said the hard-working son of a vegetable farmer who sent money to his parents in Guatemala and spoke broken English, only wanted a better life.
"He came to America like a lot of people -- for work and a better living," said a friend, Marcos Sandoval, 37, of Owings Mills. "He made no trouble. He went to work, to the park and home."
But Mr. Guerra's late-night walks caused problems at home. "We fought many times," said his girlfriend of six years, Maria Rios. "I would tell him, 'You shouldn't walk there. It's dangerous in that park.' "
Police had little to report on their investigation yesterday.
Agent Robert W. Weinhold Jr., a department spokesman, said detectives do not know of a motive or suspect.
"They have developed some leads that they are currently following up," Agent Weinhold said.
Although the neighborhoods around Patterson Park have had problems with prostitutes, residents say shootings are rare.
"Police are in the park a lot," said Ed Rutkowski, project coordinator for the Patterson Park Neighborhoods Initiative. "Very rarely is there violence. I haven't heard of anything like this."
Mr. Guerra came to the United States, and to Baltimore, in 1989. He moved into a rowhouse in the 500 block of S. Patterson Park Ave. with Ms. Rios. They lived there until last year, when they moved to the 300 block of S. Washington St.
Mr. Sandoval, a chef who came to the United States in 1981, knew Mr. Guerra growing up in the town of Aguablanca, Guatemala. He helped his friend land a job two years ago at Capriccio's, a Little Italy restaurant.
"He was excellent worker," said Capriccio's manager Angelo Sant Antonio. Mr. Sant Antonio said Mr. Guerra had started as a dishwasher and worked his way up to cook. "He was a good person," he said. "He wouldn't be involved in something bad."
Herbert Barrios, 24, a waiter at Capriccio's, said Mr. Guerra "never had problems with nobody" and added that the victim's parents called yesterday from Guatemala to inquire about their son.
"They were just asking me if it was true what happened," Mr. Barrios said. "They didn't believe what happened. Nobody could believe it. We even said goodbye to him last night."
Mr. Sant Antonio said Mr. Guerra left work early Tuesday night because business was slow. Friends and relatives said he usually walked east to Patterson Park before heading toward his home, six blocks west of the park.