Latest developments in tragic death of boxing trainer Hector Gil

The farewell messages, bouquets of flowers, beads, mementos that currently line the gym's enclosure all have deep personal meaning for those who are now mourning the loss of their coach and dear friend.

This afternoon at the same location where Hector Gil’s life was snuffed out, his dearest friends, acquaintences and relatives met to celebrate his life; each feeling an overwhelming need to cry out: “Don’t let this man’s life go unrecognized for he did a great many wonderful things for our community.”

Just after 9 p.m. on Wednesday evening, April 7th, Hector Gil had just finished assisting two of his young protégés in their sparring session at the Pacific Coast Boxing gym at 1304 North Santa Fe Avenue in Vista, Ca. Pleased with their progress, the 52 year old veteran trainer sat to talk with the remaining students and coaches. While sitting with his back to the main entrance a man wearing a hoodie ever so slowly opened the sliding door and began to open fire at the group.

The first bullet went through the chest of Gil and ended up being lodged in the chest of fellow trainer, 56 year old Peter Moreno. After the second bullet hit Gil, he fell to the floor, four additional shots were fired in the direction of 21 year-old Ricardo Gutierrez. Three of the bullets missed Gutierrez who made a valiant effort to dodge the bullets, but one caught him in the leg. Even though the police arrived on the scene almost immediately, it took an ambulance three to five minutes longer and by that time Gil had expired.

The following afternoon, Thursday, April 8th, a fellow boxing trainer, Mark Anthony Diaz, 49, was arrested at his home in the 3300 block of Roosevelt Street in Carlsbad on suspicion of killing Gil and wounding fellow trainer Peter Moreno and 21 year-old Ricardo Gutierrez. Up until Saturday, February 13, 2010, Diaz had also been a volunteer boxing coach at the same facility.

Gil, a former professional boxer, was a gentle and compassionate man who gave unselfishly of his time to train the many youngsters seeking his help. The gym in question is located just one house up from the corner of North Santa Fe Avenue and West Indian Rock Road in the mostly poor, predominantly Latino Townsite neighborhood on the east end of town.

The gym’s owner and generous sponsor, Ari Soltani, said Gil volunteered all his time and all his efforts to help the local kids. “He didn’t make any money doing it. He did it because he truly loved what he was doing.”

Back in February, Soltani was granted a temporary restraining order against Mr. Diaz, alleging he had abused and threatened him and others at the gym. By that time, Soltani had discovered that Diaz, who was supposed to be a volunteer, had been charging kids beyond the nominal $40 a month membership fee.

To speak on Diaz’s behalf, he probably felt it was in the best interest of the gym to get as much money as possible to add more and better equipment. In a self-aggrandizing state of mind, he became somewhat delusional and started calling the Pacific Coast Boxing Gym, the Diaz Gym or Club Diaz. The restraining order, which was to remain in effect until August, barred Diaz from coming anywhere near the gym.

In the same manner that a local grocery store might lobby for your business, boxing trainers and promoters like Diaz are constantly promoting their ability to help a boxer become a champion. Their sales pitches vary from: “Here, take this wad of cash,” to “Anything that you need, I can take care of.” Some of these offers are not as altruistic as they sound.

After conversing with people who know the real Mark Diaz, I discovered he can be overtly aggressive at times when targeting a boxer to be his next protégé, and his methods of bringing out the best in a fighter have been compared to people like Bear Bryant, the demanding college football coach. The boxers under Diaz’s tuteledge were known to be brawlers, gladiators with that extra resolve to throw caution to the wind.

At the “Boxers for Christ” USA Amateur boxing tournament held December 18, 2009, Diaz was on top of the world after his boxers Ricky Gutierrez, at that time an amateur, and fellow amateur, Jesus Hernandez, completely smoked their opponents. That was the day he proudly boasted his two protégés, both 21 years-old, were ready for the big show.

About that time, the gym’s owner began wondering where the money from the membership dues was disappearing to and he was having trouble meeting his expenses. At the time, the number of paying members at the gym had grown significantly.

February 13, 2010, Diaz spoke with former boxing great Priest “Tiger” Smalls at his USA boxing tournament in North Park and told him he had just been barred from the Pacific Coast gym and a boxer by the name of Ricky Gutierrez had a falling out with him and decided to go with fellow trainer Hector Gil.  Gutierrez’s reason for leaving Diaz involved more than just the advanced techniques he could learn from Gil. Gutierrez, who was 17 when he signed a contract with Diaz, felt he was well within his rights to switch coaches/managers since he was a minor when signing that earlier contract. Also, according to Gutierrez, Diaz had started using drugs and was becoming increasingly difficult to deal with.

According to another inside source, that’s when Diaz started to become overtly hostile. He must have felt the rug had been pulled out from underneath him. In his new mental state, he probably believed: I’m losing my grip on things, my gym, my ability to make money and now even all of my boxers are leaving me.

A pattern had developed. Each time a boxer left him, it was like taking another punch in the face. Then, Diaz, who at one time trained Danny Perez, a top pro middleweight, lost an opportunity to train Perez for his comeback attempt against Erislandy Lara in Las Vegas on April 2, 2010.

Like many top professionals, Perez likes to diversify his training and decided to go with Hector Gil to help him train.

The police have not said what evidence ties Diaz to the shootings but I heard the murder weapon was found in Diaz’s vehicle and an eyewitness stated he is prepared to testify that Diaz was the shooter; the shooter that slid the door open ever so quietly and then peeked inside to see the remaining group of athletes and coaches sitting on the apron of the ring.

The hooded shooter then stuck his head inside and began shooting at the group that had their backs turned away from him. The first bullet hit Gil in the chest and went through him into Moreno’s chest. After Gil and the others fell to the floor, the pistol was then aimed at Gutierrez who tried his best to dodge the bullets headed his way. Three bullets hit the back wall and one caught Gutierrez in the leg.

The police report that described the gunman stated: “The gunman is a white male ‘body-builder type’ driving a silver Ford Expedition or Nissan Titan.”

No matter what happens from here on out, this tragedy has ruined many lives. The immediate families of the victim and the killer, the youngsters present at the time, one eight, the other 10 years old, the injured boxer who may never have another opportunity to fight and a community that benefitted from the former safe haven.

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