- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 6, 2003

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Bill Hoffine chatted with Tommy Ramirez, the owner of Tommy’s Tex Mex, as he waited in the eatery for his 14-year-old son to jog by with his cross-country team.

As the teen breezed by, Hoffine called out and the boy nodded back. Mr. Ramirez told the father that his son was in good shape.

“Yeah, he’s looking good,” Mr. Ramirez recalled Hoffine replying, before adding: “I’ve got to go.”

A few blocks away, Hoffine caught up to his son and hid behind a parked van. Police say he jumped out and opened fire with a handgun, killing the teen. Hours later, surrounded by a SWAT team, Hoffine killed himself.

“He didn’t seem to me that he was just about to kill somebody,” Mr. Ramirez said Friday, noting that Hoffine, a regular at the burrito shop, seemed his normal, relaxed self.

“I’m just wondering what was going through his head.”

Police say Hoffine, a 58-year-old former math teacher, was troubled over mounting debt and a custody dispute over the boy, Evan Nash. The teen’s mother recently had filed a restraining order that described Hoffine as suicidal and a threat to Evan.

“For whatever reason he decided he was going to kill himself and decided his son would be better off dead rather than live without him,” said homicide Lt. Mike Hurley.

Several people who knew Hoffine and his son said they seemed to be close. Mr. Ramirez said they had a falling out about a year ago and Evan had moved out.

“He bailed to his mom’s. We don’t talk anymore,” he remembered Hoffine saying. Later, however, they began to show up at the burrito shop together and things seemed to be normal, Mr. Ramirez said.

After the Thursday shooting, Hoffine fled to the nearby home of a friend, and allowed her and her daughter to leave.

He holed himself up for nearly 10 hours as he negotiated with police and called friends and family to tell them about the shooting, his plans to commit suicide and to apologize.

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