Family of California Hiker Killed by Sniper Urges Public to Help

by Courtney Blackann
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Three months after a Virginia hiker was shot and killed in California, his family is asking the public for help. The 29-year-old Jason Cortez was visiting the Los Angeles area when he went for a solo hike at Debs Park near Highland Park. It was there that a suspected sniper shot him. After 90 days, his killer still hasn’t been found.

Cortez had traveled to the West Coast to work with a friend on a project. He’s a photographer who lived in Virginia and was planning to be in the area for a few days when he was killed.

The suspect is believed to have fired a single shot from a rifle while hiding in some nearby brush or a bush.

“This is a very difficult time for our family,” said Candelario Cortez, Jason’s father, during a news conference on Friday, per ABC 7 Eyewitness News. “The situation we never imagined. Please help us get some peace of mind.”

Investigation Continues in Hiker’s Murder

The shot was fired from about 75 to 100 feet away, officials said.

Det. Alex Abundis with the Los Angeles Police Department said the killing was absolutely “senseless.” With few leads, Cortez’s father flew to Los Angeles to ask the public for help and seek out answers in his son’s brutal death.

Further, the 29-year-old leaves behind a wife who is also speaking out. This would have been their first Holiday season celebrating Christmas and New Years as a married couple.

“Jason was not only my husband and an amazing son and brother and loyal friend … But now it’s the first I’ll celebrate without him in seven years,” she said. “Jason’s family and I are desperate for answers and we need your help. We need to know who did this and why. We need to understand what happened.”

A forensic artist for the LAPD was able to compose a sketch of the suspect. This was after a witness came forward and described the man.

Additionally, the suspect is thought to be a Hispanic man in his 20s or 30s. At the time, this person was wearing a blue sweatshirt with a hood. He is also about 5 feet 11 inches in height.

Officials are offering a $50,000 reward for anyone with information about who killed Jason Cortez. If you have any useful information, you can report it to the L.A. Crime Stoppers here.

The National Park Service encourages anyone who plans a hike to take precautions and let others know where you’re going. They also say that, “It is safer to hike with a companion, but if you prefer go solo, take extra measures to ensure that you are prepared since you will be traveling alone.”