Merced family looking for answers one year after murder of Ishmael Escalante

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- A North Valley family is pushing for answers one year after an unsolved murder.

Ishmael Escalante was shot to death on December 7th, 2014 outside the bar where he previously worked as a bouncer.

The victim's family just endured their first thanksgiving without him as they approach the one year anniversary of his death. They said it's impossible to move forward because they still don't know who killed him or why.

In the last photo ever taken of Escalante, it shows the 24-year-old helping to decorate his grandmother's house for the holidays. "Ishmael came last year and helped my mom like he always did, so without him being here, there's no Christmas tree, there's no lights, there's no Christmas for us," said Deanna Escalante, victim's aunt.

Deanna said her family has felt frozen in time since the day Escalante was shot to death while standing outside La Hacienda Bar, where he worked as a bouncer for more than a year. Police say he went inside and collapsed by the pool table, but the gunman kept firing from the doorway before running away. "You know, I just don't know how they can look at their family, if they have children, to look at their children and know they took someone so special to us," said Deanna.

Deanna said her nephew was known for his huge hugs and was considering a career in law enforcement because he enjoyed protecting people. He was in the process of signing up for criminology classes at Merced College before he was murdered. "If he was out there causing problems or looking for trouble, then it would be different, but he wasn't. He was a friend to all, and just having no answers is the most devastating thing," Deanna explained.

The area where the homicide happened is part of a busy shopping center.

Detectives said they have received some tips over the past year, but they're still hoping more witnesses will come forward.

Escalante's family is planning to hold a vigil and pass out flyers near the bar where he was killed, which has since closed. It starts Saturday at 2:00 p.m., and anyone who wants to show support is invited to join them.

A $5,000 reward is also being offered for information that leads to an arrest and conviction.
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