Fayetteville, N.C. — Fayetteville police have begun a homicide investigation following the death of a soldier who had returned home from Iraq less than 30 days before he was shot in a nightclub parking lot.
Sgt. Sergio Sanchez, 22, of Anniston, Ala., died early Saturday. He was shot in the neck during a robbery outside Sharky's Cabaret on April 12.
"His loss is tragic, and the void that he leaves behind will be difficult to fill," Lt. Col. Thomas J. Rogers, his battalion commander, said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends."
Investigators said the 82nd Airborne paratrooper had stepped out of the nightclub, at Blue Street and Washington Drive, to make a phone call when he came across several armed men robbing people.
One of the robbers shot Sanchez during an ensuing confrontation, police said. It was not clear if he was trying to stop the robbery.
Police said they did not have a suspect in the case. Anyone with information about the shooting is asked call police at 910-433-1856 or Crime Stoppers at 910-483-8477.
Sanchez had returned home 29 days earlier from a 15-month deployment as part of the troop surge in and around Baghdad. Comrades remembered the computer-repair technician as a hard worker who kept a sense of humor about him.
"Sgt. Sanchez was an essential part of the B Company 'Weasels' communications and electronics repair shop and was vital to the company's successful deployment," Capt. Havard M. Whiles, his company commander, said.
"The memory of this paratrooper's spirit and sense of humor will never be forgotten," Whiles added.
Maj. Tom Earnhardt, a spokesman for the 82nd Airborne, described Sanchez as a "good buddy." He was acting as a designated driver for a group of friends the night he was shot, Earnhardt said.
Born in Yuma, Ariz., Sanchez joined the Army in July 2004 and was assigned to the 407th Brigade Support Battalion in the 82d's 2nd Brigade Combat Team in June 2005.
His awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Army Achievement Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Army Good Conduct Medal-second award, National Defense Service Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon and Parachutist’s Badge.
Sanchez is survived by his father, Sergio Sanchez Sr.; mother, Guadalupe Sanchez; and sister, Diana Sanchez, all of Anniston, Ala.