Puerto Rican restaurant near post feels impact of shooting at Fort Hood

KILLEEN,  Texas (KXAN) — Just a few blocks from the east gate of Fort Hood, there is a restaurant that is feeling an additional impact to the latest deadly shooting on post.

“Yesterday at lunch, it was very quiet,” said Hector Torres, the owner of La Garita restaurant.

At La Garita, they serve up Puerto Rican cuisine, but it is also a place where natives can come to experience a little piece of their homeland. The walls are adorned with pictures and flags from the island.

“This is the place to meet Puerto Ricans,” said Torres. “That is the first thing you do when you meet another Puerto Rican is ask where they are from.”

The reason for the especially somber mood is not just because of the shooting that cost four soldiers their lives, but two of them hailed from Puerto Rico, including gunman Ivan Lopez.

“It hurts. It hurts that it happened to two of ours. You may say one, but I say two because both were killed,” said Torres.

Although the recently relocated Lopez was a stranger to Torres, victim Sgt. Carlos Lazaney-Rodriguez was a familiar face and a regular at La Garita.

“Probably every other day or two, three times a week,” said Torres about Lazaney-Rodriguez. “He would come in around lunch time with the troops.”

Although he did not get to know Lazaney-Rodriguez too well, the two were friendly and would share stories about their lives in Puerto Rico as most customers would do.

Lazaney-Rodriguez had been on active duty since 1995 and had made deployments to Iraq and Kuwait.

Torres says although many of his customers are Puerto Rican, an even greater percentage are soldiers.  And that comforts him.

“We are a military community. We are strong and will drive on.”

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