The shooting happened in the 8800 block of South Vermont Avenue shortly before 7 p.m. outside of the 88th Street Temple Church of God in Christ.
Police said a church security guard and a man, identified as 36-year-old John Matthews, were talking outside the church gates when a gunman approached them, said a few words to the men and then opened fire. Both were transported to an area hospital, where Matthews was pronounced dead and the guard was listed in fair condition.
Investigators believe the gunman is a gang member. They do not believe the victims had any gang ties and the reason for the shooting remains a mystery.
Matthews' friends said he was a good man and believe Matthews may have been mistaken for a member of a rival gang. Detectives have not confirmed whether that could be a possible motive.
"He wasn't a bad man. He wasn't a gang member. He was an innocent family man," said Matthews' friend, Crystal Elias.
"Where we live at, everybody's thinking everybody is a gang member," said Leo Cisneros. "You either have to have a suit on or a uniform going to work for you not to get shot or to come up to and be harassed."
Investigators said the suspect, described as an adult African American male, was last seen running westbound on 89th Street.
Sheriff's authorities initially said Matthews had just dropped off his wife and daughter at the church when he was gunned down. However, the church pastor later told Eyewitness News that was not the case, and that Matthews had no affiliation with the church.
The pastor of 88th St. Temple Church was holding a Bible study at the time of the shooting and heard the gunfire.
"There was some shooting, and I ran out to find our security guard hobbling toward me," said Pastor Anthony Williams.
He said the community remains under seige by gun-totting gangs and that cannot continue."As far as the hot spot for gang activity, this community here is the hottest, most dangerous area in the city," said Williams. "We need help. We need resources. We need education. We need training. We need to provide an opportunity for these young men who we're losing on these streets."
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500 or the L.A. Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS.