Michael Zaldua took photos “for the love.”
As a fledgling freelancer, he shot concerts and festivals while attending Florida International University. His friends described him as spiritual and inspirational.
“I wish to capture and expose to those in need of the feeling that art gave me,” he wrote on his website.
He was shot and killed late Friday evening in the parking garage of a housing complex near FIU’s main campus. He was 21.
Sweetwater police responded early Saturday morning at the 4th Street Commons apartment complex, 10899 SW Fourth St., and found Zaldua in the parking garage with gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead on the scene.
The complex is just north of FIU’s Modesto Maidique Campus off of Southwest Eighth Street and surrounded by a residential neighborhood.
“The Sweetwater police department ensures that our community is safe and this is an isolated incident,” Police Chief Placido Diaz said in a statement.
A university spokesperson said that “our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the victim. The university will be offering support to students who feel impacted by this tragedy.”
Zaldua, a South Florida native, graduated from Ronald Reagan Senior High school. On his site, he wrote that his photography epiphany came while sitting in accounting class. The passion he discovered for making pictures came “with a drive unmatched by any other.” On Twitter, he was a fan of short, inspirational messages.
Friends posted messages of mourning and love on social media once news broke that Zaldua was the victim.
The Commons also sent a message to residents this morning and said the building is increasing the number of security officers on the property, particularly on the second and third floors of the parking garage, and they will be checking for non-residents who have parked in the garage.
“The police have confirmed that it involved a non-resident and are continuing to investigate. We are cooperating fully with them in their investigation and will continue to update you as new information becomes available,” the message read.
A family friend of Zaldua’s created a GoFundMe to raise money for funeral expenses.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.