Marine from Twentynine Palms Randomly Gunned Down While Sitting in Car at Park

Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms main gate. Marine Corps photo
Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms main gate. Marine Corps photo

A Marine stationed at Twentynine Palms, California, was killed in a park near the base Monday night in what local law enforcement authorities called a "completely random act of violence."

Gunnery Sgt. Robert James McDonald, 35, was in his car at a park with his dog just 10 miles south of the installation when 18-year-old Rudy Garcia fired a weapon into the vehicle's cabin, according to a San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department press release Tuesday.

"Without provocation, Garcia fired his firearm into McDonald's vehicle," the sheriff's department said in the release.

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McDonald, who was hit by the gunfire, attempted to drive away, but lost control of his vehicle and collided with another car. Deputies provided care to McDonald, but he succumbed to his injuries at the scene.

"The command is grieving with the family and fellow Marines of the deceased and is working diligently to provide them with much-needed support during this difficult time," Staff Sgt. Victoria Ross, a spokesperson for Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, told on Thursday.

At approximately 7:49 p.m. local time, authorities with the Morongo Basin Sheriff's Station responded to a call that several individuals, one of whom was Garcia, were drinking alcohol and "causing a disturbance" several blocks east of the dog park.

A local resident spoke with the individuals, who became confrontational. Garcia fired several shots at the resident before fleeing toward the park where McDonald and his dog were in their car. There, authorities said, Garcia approached McDonald's car and shot him.

Gloria Huerta, a public information officer for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, confirmed to on Wednesday that McDonald was a Marine. She said that Garcia did not have any affiliation with the military.

Ross also confirmed that McDonald was stationed at the base at the time of his death, assigned to the Marine Corps Logistics Operations Group. Ross said that McDonald served as an operational contract support specialist and enlisted in the Marine Corps on June 7, 2010. 

"This was completely a random act of violence," Huerta said. "There was no connection between the two."

Authorities recovered a handgun that they believe Garcia used in the shooting. Garcia was charged with murder and is ineligible for bail, according to inmate records reviewed by

"The dog is safe," Morgan Cole, with the Palms-N-Paws Animal Shelter, told on Wednesday of McDonald's dog, which was in the car with him at the time of the shooting. "It did come to our facility for a short amount of time, and then we released it to a close family friend," who he said was McDonald's dog sitter.

KESQ, a local news channel, first reported the shooting based on the press release, which did not mention that McDonald was a Marine.

The shooting at Twentynine Palms happened two days after another service member, Army Pfc. Katia Duenas-Aguilar, 23, died in what authorities are investigating as a homicide near Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional information from Twentynine Palms.

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