Santa Ana police say the incident started around 12:30 p.m. in the 1900 block of South Main Street. The 26-year-old victim, identified as Paul Anthony Garcia of Irvine, was sitting in Chile Picante Restaurant when the suspects entered and tried to get the man to come out. Police say there was a verbal altercation and the suspects tried to drag the victim out of the restaurant to no avail.
The suspects then waited for the man outside. When he came out, all three of them crossed the street and went behind a tax services building, where the man was stabbed. The victim got away and ran back across the street where he collapsed in front of a party supply store.
The victim was transported to Western Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
Police say the incident is not gang-related, and a motive remains unclear. Detectives say the victim was the intended target.
"Based on the information we have now, we believe that these suspects were specifically looking for this individual," said Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.
Diego Olivares, who owns a nearby business, described the scene.
"They were arguing and then we saw a rumble, and I guess the guy got stabbed, and afterward his friends were trying to give him CPR, and they couldn't bring him back," he said.
Police say they are looking for two or possibly three suspects, described as male Hispanics in their 20s or 30s.
Main Street is closed in both directions for the investigation.