Navy sailor killed in East County shooting remembered for his ‘uplifting spirit’

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LA MESA, Calif. – Friends are remembering a 22-year-old Navy sailor who was shot and killed last weekend after opening the front door of his East County apartment.

Corneilius Donte Brown was a petty officer 3rd class assigned to the San Diego-based USS Abraham Lincoln, U.S. Navy spokesman Brian O’Rourke said. He had served on the ship since July 2018.

Friends from his South Carolina hometown say Brown long had ambitions to serve his country. High school friend Caleb Hunnicutt said he was heartbroken to learn of Brown’s death, saying that he’d been his mentor in the school’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program.

“Donte just always had a great attitude,” Hunnicutt said. “He was very joking, kinda like a goofy person and he just had a very uplifting spirit. Somebody that I felt like I could count on and talk to.”

The shooting happened just before 12:30 a.m. Saturday at the apartment in the 4300 block of Echo Court. Witnesses told police that Brown opened the front door after hearing an unexpected knock. It was then when he was shot three times by two unknown assailants wearing ski masks and black hooded sweatshirts, La Mesa police Lt. Greg Runge said in a news release.

Brown was transported to Sharp Memorial Hospital, where he died during surgery, Runge said.

Not much is known about the suspects or the motive in the shooting. They were described by police as both being adult Black men who fled the area on foot, going southbound on Echo Court and then eastbound on Echo Drive.

“Our investigators have been working very hard to track down leads and interview witnesses,” Runge told FOX 5.

In an emailed statement Tuesday, O’Rourke said Brown’s death is “a deep and tragic loss for the Abraham Lincoln and Navy family.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Petty Officer Brown’s family and loved ones,” O’Rourke said.

A GoFundMe drive has been established to cover Brown’s funeral expenses.

Anyone with information is asked to call the La Mesa Police Department at 619-667-1400 or email the department at lamesatips@cityoflamesa.us. Callers also may remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8477 and could be eligible for a reward up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest.

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