Ambushed at an LA park, kidnapped and her body dumped in a field: What happened to Andrea Vazquez?

Andrea Vazquez (right)  (Whittier Police Department )
Andrea Vazquez (right) (Whittier Police Department )

It was a Sunday night and a young couple were sitting together in a car at a park near Los Angeles.

What happened next was something straight out of a horror movie – except this was real life.

A gunman suddenly opened fire on the couple before pulling 19-year-old Andrea Vazquez from the car.

Vazquez’s boyfriend escaped the gunfire but returned to the vehicle to find she had been kidnapped.

After an intensive one-day search, the harrowing incident culminated in despair as Vazquez’s body was found in a field and a suspect – who has no known connection to the couple – was arrested for her murder.

Heartbroken relatives described Vazquez as a “beautiful person” as they have been left struggling to understand what happened and why.

Here’s everything we know so far about her abduction and death:

A chilling abduction

The horror unfolded just after midnight on Sunday 20 August when Vazquez and her boyfriend were sitting in a car at Penn Park in Whittier, police said.

Her boyfriend told police that an armed suspect then approached their vehicle and “fired a weapon in their direction,” police said.

Vazquez’s boyfriend fled the scene and when he returned he discovered blood near his car and his girlfriend missing.

Vazquez has been kidnapped from the scene.

Officers were alerted to a shooting and kidnapping incident located at the “parking stalls area” at 13950 Penn Street in Whittier.

Andrea Vazquez was abducted from a park near Los Angeles (Whittier Police Department)
Andrea Vazquez was abducted from a park near Los Angeles (Whittier Police Department)

In a statement following her kidnapping, police said that Vazquez was last seen wearing a black long-sleeve crop top, khaki pants, and black low-top Converse shoes.

“She has a tattoo of ‘Edlyn’ on the back of the neck, Aries constellation on the top of her right hand and a belly button piercing,” the statement read.

Vasquez’s sister, Edlyn, with whom she lives in Los Angeles, put out a plea on Facebook for the public’s help in finding her.

“My sister was shot and kidnapped at Penn Park,” she wrote.

“Her last location shows Moreno Valley. We don’t know her condition. Please I am begging, if anyone has information, or the heart to share this, please please contact me and repost.”

Another relative Emily Martinez told Fox News Digital that Vasquez’s phone last pinged in the Moreno Valley area.

“We’re scared for her, but I’m hopeful, very hopeful that we’ll find her,” she said. “We just want to know she’s OK.”

Tragic discovery

Following the horror kidnapping, a huge search was launched to try to find the missing 19-year-old.

That search ended in tragedy on Monday 21 August when, at around 11.50pm local time, authorities combing the area of Moreno Valley made a gruesome discovery.

Police said that the teen’s body had been found in a vegetation field off Alessandro Boulevard and Merwin Street in Moreno Valley.

It is currently unclear how she died or the nature of the scene where her body was found.

The investigation remains ongoing but police said that it appears that the attack on Vazquez and her boyfriend was “randomly targeted”.

The ‘random’ suspect

On Tuesday 22 August, police announced an update on the case as a suspect was taken into custody.

Detectives from the Whittier Police Department and the LADA Community Violence Reduction Team arrested Gabriel Esparza, a 20-year-old man and Whittier resident, in connection with the kidnapping and shooting of Vazquez.

Gabriel Esparza, 20, charged with murder and kidnapping of Andrea Vasquez (WPD)
Gabriel Esparza, 20, charged with murder and kidnapping of Andrea Vasquez (WPD)

Mr Esparza was taken into custody at his workplace in the city of Lakewood and booked into the Whittier Police Department jail on charges of murder and kidnapping.

He is being held without bail.

During his arrest, officers recovered a weapon and Esparza’s White Toyota Tacoma truck – which are believed to have been used at the time of the shooting.

“This relentless investigation and yesterday’s arrest were made possible by the dedication and commitment of our investigations division, with the assistance of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Downey Police Department, La Habra Police Department and the LADA Investigations Bureau Community Violence Reduction Team,” police said in a statement.

The case will be presented to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office on Wednesday 23 August.

Tributes pour in

Vasquez attended Fullerton College and was a fashion design student as well as an employee at a shopping mall in Cerritos.

Ms Martinez told Fox News Digital before her body was found that the 19-year-old had also been working with her sister Edlyn, who is a lash artist.

She described Vazquez as the “funniest person ever” and a “beautiful person” who was liked by everyone who met her.