Kebret Tekle was 20 years old and full of promise.
A budding television journalist with an ability to connect even with strangers, she was deeply involved in her sorority's platform of service at California State University, Sacramento, where in two years she would have graduated.
But police say a stray bullet from a gang fight ended all that.
Tekle was killed as she sat in her car parked outside a nightclub near the school early Wednesday by a bullet intended for someone else, police said. She was shot in the neck but survived for 16 hours before dying just as a vigil in her honor began on campus Wednesday night, authorities said.
It was the first homicide in the city in one month, but the second time this year that a young woman with a bright future was caught in gang crossfire and killed, police said.
"It's just surreal, this isn't happening," said Meghan Johnson, one of Tekle's sorority sisters at Alpha Kappa Alpha. "She's one of those people who ... not her. Not her."
The shooting followed a fight inside the Library Eats and Drinks on Folsom Boulevard, police said. Two groups of suspected gang members were escorted out of the club by security, and the dispute continued outside.
As one group fled in a car heading west on Folsom about 1 a.m., a man fired several shots in their direction, police said. One of the shots struck Tekle, who friends said had driven a group of friends to the popular bar.
"It's so senseless, that's the worst thing," Sacramento Police Officer Michelle Lazark said. "It's so sad. You have a young woman who is in a service sorority, in school, a good girl minding her own business. She's civilized, educated and at the wrong place at the wrong time."
Tekle's death followed the March 23 killing of 16-year-old Jelisa Office, an honor student shot and killed outside a chaperoned party in Del Paso Heights. Police said the shooting was gang motivated but that Office was an innocent bystander.
A 16-year-old boy has been charged in Office's death.
Lazark said there were "multiple people outside" the Library when the shot that killed Tekle was fired, but that so far, detectives have received few detailed witness accounts of who the shooter might be.
"Somebody saw something," Lazark said. "Do the right thing: Step forward and tell us what you saw. And if you're the shooter, turn yourself in."
The Library, considered a trouble-free establishment by school administrators, is across the street from campus. That proximity has shaken the student body's sense of security.
"You never think something like that will happen to you or happen on your back door," Johnson said. "But we have to stay prayerful that things like this won't happen."
While detectives search for the killer, campus police have asked students to remain alert. Students are "acutely aware" of how close the crime scene was to their school but are also expressing "an overwhelming sense of hope and appreciation" for people like Tekle, said Dr. Lori Varlotta, the school's vice president for student affairs.
"They want to be strong," Varlotta said, adding a vigil attended by 200 students Wednesday night quickly transformed from a period of mourning to a celebration of Tekle's life.
There was a lot to celebrate, her friends said. Tekle was "creative and full of life," a sophomore journalism major who dreamed of a career in television, said Monique Powell, one of Tekle's sorority sisters.
"Personalities like hers are made, not born," Powell said. "We feel like we lost a member of our family."
Tekle had a way of "affecting people by just being in their presence," said Monique Ford, another sorority sister. Some of the students who attended Wednesday night's vigil had met Tekle only the previous night at the Library, Ford said.
"Everyone just wants to celebrate her," Ford said.
Police are asking anyone who has information on the homicide to call Crime Alert at (916) 443-HELP.