Sunday was like any other day for M Sanjeeva Reddy and his family. A long-time farmer in Telangana's Vangapahad Village in Warangal district, Reddy had recently shifted professions, as he was not able to break even with cultivation and agriculture.
At around 7am, he received a call from JS Paranjyothi, a long time family friend, and the Chairman of Oasis Public School, Warangal. This was the school where Sanjeeva's son, Vamshi Reddy, had done his schooling.
What followed shook Sanjeeva to his very core, as the voice on the other end told him that Vamshi, who had recently completed his MS in California in the US, had gone 'missing'.
Sanjeeva was asked to immediately come and meet Paranjyothi.
"At around 4.30am on Sunday, my sons, who are also studying the US, forwarded a few photos that they had received in a WhatsApp group. The photos were of a boy who had studied in our school, who had been shot. I could not immediately recognise who it was, but decided to find out," Paranjyothi told TNM.
"I made a few calls and got in touch with some other students in the US, who were Vamshi's batchmates, and they gave me a little more information. I still could not confirm anything, but they gave me the local police's number," he adds.
By then, it was 8am, and a worried Sanjeeva reached Paranjyothi's residence.
"I called up the police in front of Vamshi's father, and they told me that a shooting had happened, but they were registering it as a missing complaint, as further investigation was on. They took my details, and they said they would call me back," says Paranjyothi.
Vamshi's friends, who stayed two hours away, had driven down to his apartment by then, only to find that their worst fears were true.
According to Paranjyothi, there was still commotion at the spot when his friends got there, and eyewitnesses narrated the incident to them, confirming that it was Vamshi who had been shot.
It was around 10.45 pm (California time) on Friday, when the local police received a call from a woman, stating that someone had stolen her car keys at gunpoint.
The incident took place at at Milpitas city in California's Santa Clara County, where Vamshi was staying, and had recently taken up a part-time job.
The address was Ilara Apartments at 1201 S Main St, the same apartment complex in which Vamshi was staying.
According to reports, officers immediately rushed to the spot, only to hear gunshots from within the parking lot of the apartment, before a vehicle sped away.
A brief chase followed, after which the car is reported to have crashed at Serra Way and S Abel Street, where the suspect was arrested.
Meanwhile, back at the apartment, the police realised that the unidentified gunman had fired at a youth at point-blank range, leaving him dead on the spot.
The bullet is said to have hit Vamshi in the face.
While the official statement is awaited, eye-witness accounts suggest that Vamshi may have been shot after he tried to intervene in the carjacking and helped the woman who called.
"He was my student. I had taught him when he was a boy. He was a very committed child, both to his studies, and to his family. My family and his used to live close by. Later on, Vamshi even stayed in the school hostel," says Paranjyothi.
"He was a disciplined boy. He never gave any trouble, and he made sure never to hurt anyone personally," he adds.
Vamshi was supposed to be the sole breadwinner for his family, as he left behind a married sister with two children, and his aging parents.
His family is inconsolable.
On Sunday, as word reached Vamshi's house that he was no more, his family could be seen wailing, and no amount of consoling by friends and family could get them to stop crying.
Visuals showed a woman, presumably his mother, rolling on the floor outside their house in agony, even as others tried to help her get up.
Vamshi had gone to California in 2015, where he completed his Masters at the Silicon Valley University.
For the last two months, Vamshi was looking for a job in the software industry and had taken up a part-time job at a local store in Milpitas.
"I had just spoken to him a few days ago. He was worried that he was not getting a job there. I asked him to come back home and settle here. We also had plans of getting him married," Sanjeeva told media persons on Sunday, before breaking down.
A day later, he is in no better state.
Speaking to TNM with a shaky voice, he says, "We all are still to come to terms with it. He was such a good boy, and he was always very helpful and sincere."
"I had spoken to him again, less than an hour before the incident. He said that he was done with work, and that he was going back home," he adds.
The mere mention of Vamshi's name brings tears to Sanjeeva's eyes.
After pulling himself back together, Sanjeeva adds, "I have to stay strong for my family. If I break down, then how can I expect my wife to go through this? Vamshi was the best son anyone could have asked for. He would ensure that I never had to worry about him, because he loved us just as much as we loved him."
"Even for his education, he understood how much we had to struggle to send him there, and he never forgot it. He earned for himself and studied there, and he never complained that we could not provide him the best of things," he adds.
Others in Vamshi's family are also shocked by the incident. "It was very unexpected. It was the last thing that we expected to happen to Vamshi," says Rakesh Reddy, Vamshi's cousin.
"He was very charming, and had a friendly character. He would mix very well in a group of friends. He even had dreams of being an actor," he adds.
Rakesh says that Vamshi had also done a few short films, and sought to pursue a career in Tollywood, before he went to do his Masters.
"He was not at all the sort of person who would pick up fights. He would always be the one who would broker peace between people," Rakesh adds.
Some members of his family even alleged that it was a hate crime.
"What kind of government is functioning in US? They are targeting people from other countries. What is our fault. The boy had gone there for his higher studies. He had not harmed anyone in his life and he was killed so brutally. The US government should take steps to prevent such incidents in future and punish the guilty severely," Vamsi's uncle Raghupathi Reddy told The New Indian Express.
The family has said that the Telangana state government has offered to bear the expenses of bringing Vamshi's body back home.
On Monday, some members of Vamshi's family including his cousin Praveen, and Paranjyothi, visited the Secretariat in Hyderabad, and said that the state has assured help.
Sanjeeva's brother, Vishnu Vardhan Reddy told TNM that they had spoken to several government officials and politicians, who were in touch with the Embassies of the two governments.
"The police have said that they have to keep Vamshi's body for two days because it was a case of homicide under their jurisdiction. After that, they will make arrangements to send it home," he said.
However, there is a larger problem.
"While we are grateful that the cost of transporting the body is being borne, we still need funds to help Vamshi's family out, as they are very poor, and have nowhere to turn to now," says Paranjyothi.
Paranjyothi adds that Vamshi's father hardly makes Rs 6,000 to Rs 7,000 per month as a labourer under an agricultural contractor.
Taking this into consideration, Vamshi's friends have started an online crowdfunding campaign, which has collected a little over $30,000 at the time of writing.
Speaking to TNM, Saikumar Dona, who started the campaign, said that many of Vamshi's friends in the US were coordinating with his relatives back home to help the family out monetarily.
He also urged everyone to support the cause, as it would go a long way in helping the family.
A link to the campaign, can be found here.