'In her own way, she accomplished a lot'
She enrolled at United Education Institute (UEI) to become a medical assistant. Her test scores averaged between 85% to 95%, according to her older sister, Evelyn Vargas, 21.
Eight days before graduating from UEI, Vargas, 20, was shot in the back of the head in the 12700 block of 58th Street in Huntington Park about 1 a.m. Sunday, June 1.
Evelyn Vargas said she was on her way to pick up her younger sister for breakfast when she spotted police cars and yellow tape. She thought nothing of it. "It should have hit me," Evelyn said. "Everybody should have been outside, but no one one was around, so I thought she was inside."
An hour later, Evelyn Vargas said she drove back to the crime scene. She told an officer that her sister had been in the area and that she hadn't arrived home. An officer took down her information and told her he would call upon locating her sister.
Later, she got a phone call from the police. They said her younger sister was at St. Francis Medical Center. At the hospital, doctors told the family that Vargas had been declared brain dead but was kept on life support because she was an organ donor. Evelyn Vargas said she walked to her sister's bed. She said her sister's face was swollen; blood flowed from her nose, eyes and ears, she recalled in a phone interview. She said her sister's hair was stiff with dried blood. "I thought I was hallucinating," she said.
Detectives told the family they had arrested a 16-year-old Latino youth on suspicion of murder. For the family, it was no longer about who had shot Vargas, but whether she knew the shooting was about to happen. Occasionally, Evelyn Vargas spends her time in her sister's old room, expecting her to come home. She said she tries to take comfort in knowing that her sister's donated organs are helping others. "Someone will have her heart, her lungs. It's good that she's going to help," she said. "In her own way she accomplished a lot."