TEMECULA, Calif. - The girlfriend of a 19-year-old man who was fatally stabbed during a fight in the parking lot of a Southern California Walmart on Wednesday witnessed the deadly attack and held the teen in her arms as he drew his last breath, according to the victim's parents.
Kevin Rodriguez was fatally stabbed around 12:15 p.m., following some sort of “altercation” that began between two men outside the store in Temecula, according to KTLA.
The dispute escalated after moving into the store’s parking lot, where the stabbing took place, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
Rodriguez’s girlfriend of three years witnessed the attack and held him in her arms as he was bleeding, according to his parents.
"He really loved his girlfriend," the victim's mother, Traci Rodriguez, told KTLA Wednesday night. "And I'm sorry, I'm really sorry for her to have to go through that -- holding him, the way she did. And I'm going to be there for her."
The young man was treated at the scene for the stab wound but succumbed to the injury after being transported to a hospital.
Investigators have not yet provided a motive, but Rodriguez’s father described it as a possible case of road rage, based on the girlfriend's account of what occurred.
Rodriguez, a freelance videographer from Murrieta, was on his way to Walmart with his girlfriend to pick up groceries for his father’s belated birthday dinner. But as they approached the shopping center, the couple noticed another driver who seemed anxious and agitated.
"They saw the guy first honking at a lady going through the crosswalk. She said there was a lot of traffic and this guy looked like he was getting really bad anxiety," said Atticus Rodriguez, the victim's father.
"He almost hit my son's car," he continued. "So my son raises his hands and is like, 'What's wrong? What's wrong with you?' Came here to the Walmart, they just figured they're going to walk into Walmart and buy groceries and that's when the altercation happened, the guy got out of his car, went after my son, got him by the throat, he told his girlfriend, 'You're next.' She's freaking out and she had no idea that he had a knife and stabbed him in the heart."
The attacker was filming the altercation, the girlfriend told Rodriguez’s parents.
After the stabbing, the woman ran back to the car and told Rodriguez to jump in, according to his father. But by then, Kevin Rodriguez had collapsed, so she rushed to his side and held him in her arms.
"He stopped breathing in her arms," Atticus Rodriguez said.
Paramedics transported the teen to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Officials have not formally identified the victim yet.
Authorities have not confirmed the details of the incident, but in another bizarre twist, Rodriguez’s father said he was told that the man tried to render aid to his son.
"Why did he record it, why do you hurt somebody - and then you want to render aid. What is wrong with you?" he said.
The grief-stricken parents remembered the young man as being adventurous, saying he enjoyed recording stunts for social media. He was a loving son and brother who had many friends and regularly attended church, they said.
"He did things for other people and he loved life," Traci Rodriguez told KTLA.
The Sheriff’s Department has released very little information about the incident and has not confirmed the details provided by the family, including if it was a suspected case of road rage and whether the man recorded the incident.
A Temecula resident, 40-year-old James Fortney, was later arrested and booked into the Cois Byrd Detention Center for voluntary manslaughter.
Officials said they were not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident.
Anyone with information is encouraged to call authorities at 760-393-3530 or 760-393-3528.
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help pay funeral costs. More information can be found here.