On the last night of his life, Rory Park-Pettiford was riding high.

The 22-year-old Campbell native was in a budding relationship he was ready to reveal. He had finally gotten confident enough to record hip-hop songs in a studio setting. The seeds of his latest career venture were being planted.

To top it off, he was behind the wheel of his new ride, a cherry customized BMW, with his good buddy riding passenger-side as they prepared to hit the town Friday night.

"He was so happy. I hadn't seen him that happy in a long time," said longtime friend Ardian Kucevic.

But in a flash, Park-Pettiford was slumped over the steering wheel from multiple gunshots as his friend looked on in horror, not knowing that they had just been ensnared in the rampage of two armed robbers who would escalate their crime spree later that night by trying to kill a police officer.

The senseless shooting prompted an outpouring of support for Park-Pettiford's family from Campbell, where he grew up, and the wider South Bay community. Kucevic, 21, recounted the devastating seconds that began with a simple visit to a minimart and ended with his dying friend in his arms.

He said the two stopped by a 7-Eleven Friday night to buy cigarettes and energy drinks and had emerged from the store when they saw a dark figure.


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"We're getting closer to the car," Kucevic said, "and someone's coming around the corner, wearing a ski mask and carrying a gun."

The two thought that the masked man was set on holding up the 7-Eleven, he said, so they frantically got into the car to get away.

Rory Park-Pettiford briefly fumbled with the push-button ignition of his new car, and just a few seconds had passed when a bullet smashed through the driver's side window.

"It hit him in the side in the upper body, and he just kind of slumped back. He looked at me, and said 'I'm shot,' " Kucevic said. "By the time he said that, he got shot again."

"He ..." Kucevic said, choking up and then pausing to gather himself, " ... he just died."

It happened in a blur.

"From us walking out of the 7-Eleven to him dying in front of me, it was about 30 seconds," Kucevic said.

The shooting was in the midst of a violent rampage that started about 7:40 p.m. Friday when two armed men robbed a Little Caesar's Pizza restaurant on Story Road in East San Jose. Police said the suspects then robbed a gas station on East Capitol Expressway, then allegedly held up a Jack in the Box restaurant on Curtner Avenue and a spa on Bird Avenue.

Police believe they were trying to carjack Park-Pettiford's BMW.

An officer on the look out for a car linked to the suspects spotted it on Interstate 280 near Highway 101 and, while waiting for backup, followed it to the intersection of Tully Road and Lanai Avenue. As both cars were stopped at a red light, the two men got out of their vehicle and opened fire.

The unnamed officer was wounded but escaped serious injury during the Friday night gunbattle. One of the men -- 26-year-old Jonathan Wilbanks of San Jose -- was arrested, but the second was still at large Monday, prompting a $20,000 reward from the police union and mayor's office for information leading to his arrest.

Police described the attack on the officer as an ambush. The second officer to arrive at the scene, Bruce Barthelemy, fired several shots at the two suspects. The men fled, but police say Wilbanks was struck twice and eventually caught.

As police continue to look for the second suspect, Park-Pettiford's death -- the 42nd homicide of the year in San Jose -- reverberated throughout the community. His girlfriend, 18-year-old Brittany Mundy, led a vigil at the 7-Eleven store on South Kiely Avenue where he was shot. His brother Dylan said he and his family have gotten a flood of well wishes via phone, text, email and social media, including a message of sympathy from a professional hockey player.

"It's pretty amazing, how many people he affected," Dylan Park-Pettiford said. "Basically the entire city of Campbell rallied around him."

Rory Park-Pettiford was remembered as an outgoing kid who made friends wherever he went, from Marshall Lane Elementary and Westmont High School, where he played football, to his frequent jaunts to places like Santa Cruz and Southern California.

"Every time I called him, he's somewhere else, doing something different," his brother said. "Rory was really fun-loving, living one giant adventure."

Seemingly always on the go, Rory Park-Pettiford had his hands in construction and odd jobs, which paid the bills, all the while crafting rap lyrics and buying and selling Air Jordan sneakers.

His latest undertaking was a plan to make dental jewelry grills, and much like his other activities, no detail went unnoticed. He was apprenticing with a jeweler and mapped out an eventual diamond-supply strategy. The end goal was to bring a grill shop to the South Bay.

"He had a real vision," Kucevic said. "He was loyal, loving, caring. Very passionate."

His former high school football coach, Jake Redmond, was dumbstruck when he heard about what happened to the young man who worked hard and kept things light in the locker room.

"He was just a great kid," Redmond said. "It's a sad day to have someone that young with that much potential be killed the way he was."

Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of the second suspect is asked to immediately call 911. To provide confidential information about the whereabouts of the suspect, call 408-947-STOP (7867) or homicide investigators at 408-277-5283.

Contact Robert Salonga at 408-920-5002. Follow him at Twitter.com/robertsalonga.

TO HELP
A memorial service for Rory Park-Pettiford is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Darling Fischer Memorial Chapel, 231 East Campbell Ave. in Campbell. To help his family with funeral costs, please go to www.roryparkdonations.com.