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Two charged with murder in shooting death of longtime Wilmington volunteer

It's been six months since Sandy De La Mora's husband, Jose Quezada, was gunned down while volunteering at a community event meant to curb gang violence in Wilmington.

After a months-long investigation, Los Angeles police on Thursday announced that two men have been charged in connection with Quezada's death.

But De La Mora is still searching for answers for herself and the three sons she and Quezada, 46, shared. She wants to know why.

“My husband did not deserve this,” she said during a news conference Thursday. Addressing the accused killers, she added, “He was a great husband, an amazing father, an amazing friend, and now we are left torn and broken because of your cowardice.”

Read more: Volunteer is killed at Wilmington community event meant to prevent violence

Sergio Esteban, 28, and Estevan Hernandez, 27, are both charged with murder. Hernandez is facing a sentencing enhancement for personal use of a firearm, court records show.

Esteban was arrested in December. Hernandez was also identified as a suspect at the time, police said, but investigators could not find him in Los Angeles. With assistance from the FBI, Hernandez was located in Mexico in January. He was taken into custody by local authorities and turned over to the Los Angeles Police Department this month.

Capt. Jamie Bennett described the men, who are both from San Pedro, as "documented gang members" and said the shooting appeared to be gang-motivated. Authorities did not provide details about how the two men were identified as suspects.

Esteban is being held on $2-million bail and Hernandez in lieu of $3-million bail, jail records show.

Quezada had just finished grilling at the “Summer Night Lights” event on July 27 at the Wilmington Recreation Center on North Neptune Avenue when the men approached the crowd of about 100 people and opened fire, police said.

Quezada was struck by the gunfire. Paramedics with the Los Angeles Fire Department tried unsuccessfully to revive him.

Quezada owned a maintenance business but spent his free time volunteering in the Wilmington community. He organized fundraisers for local families who lost loved ones to gang violence or illness, coached youth baseball and helped out at the Wilmington Recreation Center and the Wilmington Teen Center, said Mike Herrera, the teen center's director.

"He was just that kind of guy. If the community needed something he was ready to help," Herrera said. "Even the day he died he was working trying to keep kids off the streets."

The neighborhood kids knew him as "coach," and his barbecued ribs and chicken always drew a crowd, Herrera said.

Summer Night Lights, which launched in 2008, is a city program that holds community events offering such things as free food, sports and activities in neighborhoods harmed by violence.

"It is important for this community to know what has occurred and for us to join together to denounce senseless acts of violence in our communities," LAPD Deputy Chief Emada Tingirides said during the news conference.

Read more: 4 shot at South L.A. event meant to curb gang violence, a week after another shooting left 1 dead

Herrera can't wrap his mind around why anyone would shoot Quezada. Although he wasn't in a gang and actively worked to keep kids out of them, Quezada was known for being able to talk with anyone whether they were gang-affiliated or not, Herrera said.

"They caught the murderers, but it's not going to bring him back," Herrera said. "There's no answers in a situation like this. It's just a tragedy."

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.