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Army: Sylmar Soldier Killed Sunday Never Served In Afghanistan Despite LAPD Reports

LOS ANGELES ( —  The Sylmar soldier killed over the weekend never deployed despite a report issued by the LAPD, it was revealed Wednesday.

U.S. Army officials confirmed to CBS2/KCAL9 that 21-year-old Francisco Garcia did not serve in Afghanistan or any other country as originally reported by police.

Garcia was fatally shot early Sunday morning after a party on Dronfield Street in Sylmar.

An initial statement issued by the LAPD's Mission Division Sunday read: "A 22-year-old Army veteran, recently returned from Afghanistan, was shot and killed early this morning after a dispute erupted outside a party celebrating his homecoming."

The news release also include a statement from Lt. Paul Vernon, the commanding officer of the station's detective division.

"The ironies are obvious," he said.  "To survive as a soldier in an overseas conflict, only to be killed in your old neighborhood upon your return."

But an LAPD spokesperson told CBS2/KCAL9's Peter Daut that all information pertaining to Garcia's military service in Afghanistan was gathered from his family and friends.

Fort Drum officials in New York confirmed Garcia enlisted in June 2012 and was discharged from the Army in July of this year.

During his enlistment, Garcia, who held the title of private first-class, went through six months of basic training before being stationed at Fort Drum, according to Fort Drum spokeswoman Julie Halpin.

It was also later determined that Garcia was not celebrating his homecoming as originally reported by the LAPD.

Police suspect the 21-year-old was caught in a feud between two rival tagging groups and may have been involved.

Off-camera Wednesday, Garcia's girlfriend told Daut she still believes he served two tours in Afghanistan lasting a total of 18 months.

She also said he was discharged for medical reasons but did not elaborate.

Garcia's sister also told Daut she believed her brother served overseas.

Detectives told Daut that if his family was duped, even by Garcia, they will likely not face charges. However, if they intentionally lied for some type of financial gain, they could be prosecuted.

The family established a GoFundMe page to help defray funeral costs. Daut reported that more than $7,000 has been raised.

On the page, the family said Garcia had "just been accepted to the California Highway Patrol Academy." Detectives are trying to determine if that is true.

Vincent Estrada, 18, was arrested Tuesday in Garcia's murder. He is being held on $1 million bail.


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