East San Jose community mourns youth counselor killed in hit-and-run

An East San Jose community is mourning a youth counselor killed in a hit-and-run crash.

Jose Esparza, 24, was driving home when a car ran a red light and crashed into him.

His loved ones held a candlelight vigil on Tuesday. They said the young man overcame unimaginable obstacles and was an inspiration in the community.

Family and friends gathered at McKee Road and North 33rd Street to honor the life of Esparza, a foster youth counselor who beat the odds only for his life to be taken away.

"He was preparing for the future, he aspired to have kids, he aspired to get married and it sucks that it got taken away from him so easily," said Prashant Kumar, Esparza’s best friend.

At 2:30 a.m. on Saturday, Esparza was a few blocks from his home after a night with friends when he was broadsided by a driver in a black 2015 Infinity. Police said, the Infinity sped through a red light and crashed into Esparza’s Honda. Esparza was ejected and died. The driver of the Infinity took off on foot.

Esparza was featured on a segment of 49ers Cal-Hi Sports in 2015 ironically titled, "A Happy Ending."

Growing up, Esparza had struggled with domestic violence at home. His father left him for Mexico and his mother was unable to take care of him. Esparza was at one point homeless. His high school football coach took him in.

"To be honest I haven’t been able to process it because I still expect him to text me back," said Overfelt High School Football Coach Carlo Maningo.

"It’s devastating, I go back and forth from being in disbelief to being angry," said his former high school principal Vito Chiala.

Chiala said Esparza excelled in football and volleyball. An academic scholarship helped him get into UCLA.

"The challenges in his life would have stopped so many of us not only did it not stop him it almost encouraged him to work harder and do more," Chiala said.

After graduating UCLA, Esparza worked as a support counselor for Seneca, a family service agency that helps countless foster youth.

"He really was someone who lived to serve, it’s just an unthinkable tragedy," said the agency's CEO Leticia Galyean, Seneca Family of Agencies CEO.

It was a life eager to make a difference that was cut tragically short.

"It was always about giving back to the youth, the younger generation and giving back to the community that made him who he was," said Kumar.

Police have not announced any arrests. Loved ones know catching the suspect won’t bring Esparza back. They are saddened it happened to someone who deserved so much more out of life.

A GoFundMe page has raised more than $30,000.

 Azenith Smith is a reporter for KTVU. Email Azenith at azenith.smith@fox.com and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AzenithKTVU or Facebook or ktvu.com.