When Yubi Kim left his Irvine home on Aug. 3, nothing seemed out of the ordinary in his quiet corner of one of the nation’s safest cities.
It was only later he learned that, just down the block, a 19-year-old man had been gunned down in broad daylight.
“It was really scary because I heard the incident happened around 12:30 [p.m.], and I left around 12,” he said. “I don’t know if I drove by them.”
The ambush, which authorities allege was premeditated and stemmed from a drug dispute, left the victim’s family mourning after a “senseless act of violence” and residents grappling with unfamiliar pangs of uneasiness in a community long renowned for its safety.
“I do feel like it is still a safe place to live, and I’m trying to remind myself this was a very targeted situation and no one who actually lives here was being targeted,” said Tracy Jorgenson, 36, who also lives in the neighborhood where the shooting occurred. “We’ve just all had the question of, like, why here?”
According to Irvine police officials, on Aug. 3, a woman baited Nicholas Alistair Neaimi-Pour into her car on Athel Avenue, a well-groomed street lined with single-family homes.
Once Neaimi-Pour got into the passenger side of the car, two other suspects — one armed — pulled up alongside the vehicle and opened fire, authorities allege.
Neaimi-Pour later died at a hospital.
Jorgenson called 911 after hearing pleas for help from a nearby street, not realizing what had happened until minutes later when she saw a man who was trying to help Neaimi-Pour covered in blood.
“My mind was kind of racing: ‘Is there a gun still out there, is this man a shooter, is there a shooter nearby?’” she said, thinking about the safety of her young children.
The panic of the day continues to flood her memory as visitors stop by a makeshift memorial at the scene of the shooting, marked by a row of candles, a photo and some wilting roses.
“We’re definitely upping our security,” Jorgenson said, echoing many of her neighbors’ plans to invest in cameras. “It’s just very unexpected. It kind of puts into perspective that anything could happen at any time.”
It’s not clear why the quiet neighborhood, just blocks from College Park Elementary, was chosen for the ambush, said Irvine Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Karie Davis, adding that three suspects have been arrested.
Authorities identified them as Jayden Browndorf, 21, of Irvine; Noah Farmer, 22, of Tustin; and Hailey Angelique Rangel, 20, of Lake Elsinore.
“They didn’t have any connection to this actual neighborhood, but we know that Browndorf lived over the wall from where this happened,” Davies said.
Browndorf and Farmer, whom Davies described as girlfriend and boyfriend, were arrested the day after the shooting. Browndorf is accused of luring Neaimi-Pour to her vehicle, and Farmer is the alleged gunman, according to police.
Rangel, who Davies said was an acquaintance of the couple, was arrested days later. She is accused of driving Farmer to the location and waiting nearby until Neaimi-Pour arrived.
All three remain in custody without bail.
It wasn’t clear if Neaimi-Pour knew the three, but Davies said it appears they ran in the same circles and that the shooting followed a dispute over drugs.
Mayor Farrah Khan sent her condolences to the family of Neaimi-Pour. She called the violence in the case chilling and said she was especially shaken by how young everyone involved was.
“We just lost a 19-year-old life,” Khan said. “And then to see the three suspects arrested being in their early 20s, they pretty much ruined the rest of their lives.”
According to the criminal complaint filed by the Orange County district attorney’s office, the three suspects worked to “conspire together and with another person, whose identity is unknown,” but Davies said there are no outstanding suspects. A spokesperson for the district attorney’s office did not respond to questions about a potential fourth suspect.
Neaimi-Pour’s family declined to speak with The Times this week, asking for privacy as they plan his funeral. But his father wrote on Facebook that they are still trying to process the loss.
“Sadly, his life was taken by a senseless act of violence,” Ali Neaimi Pour wrote. “Words cannot explain how much we will miss him. … Thank you to everyone who was a good friend to Nick. We are forever grateful for the impact you made on his life.”
While homicides are not unheard of in Irvine, Davies called such a killing “pretty rare.” She said their detectives usually handle one or two a year.
FBI statistics from 2021 — the most recent year available — show only two homicides in Irvine, a city of about 300,000.
Irvine’s violent crime rate of 71 per 100,000 people was the lowest that year of any U.S. city with at least 250,000 residents, marking the 17th consecutive year the city notched that distinction, according to data from city officials. Such crimes include homicide, rape, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, arson, certain theft cases and human trafficking.
Crime statistics haven’t been released since 2021, but information put out by Irvine police show only a few other more recent killings.
“One thing I am confident in saying: The city of Irvine is still an incredibly safe community,” said Khan, Irvine’s mayor. “With isolated incidents like this, we never know when or where they might occur, but we know our police chief, Michael Kent, and our officers are committed to maintaining the high standards that our community expects.”
Multiple neighbors said they appreciated how quickly police responded to the shooting and made arrests.
“We don’t have control over when incidents like this occur, but we do have control over what we do next,” Khan said.
Police leaders are working to increase enforcement efforts since the shooting, presenting at a council meeting this week plans to add security cameras at parks and community centers, as well as expanding Irvine’s pilot real-time crime center, which embeds crime analysis staff in the emergency communications center.
“We’re taking the next steps to go even beyond what we’ve already accomplished in our city,” Khan said. “It’s always about letting people know what’s going on, what we’re doing and how we’re going to continue being the safest city.”