A 30-year-old Hamilton man who was killed in a Friday night shooting was an intensely loyal friend and a devoted student with “really high hopes and dreams for himself,” says his former girlfriend.

Tyler Johnson, a fourth-year engineering student at McMaster University, died early on Saturday morning after he was shot in front of a pita restaurant on King Street West at Caroline Street.

Police haven’t announced any arrests in the case. The fatal shooting is the city's 13th homicide of the year — the highest number in more than a decade — and the third in the month of November. 

Police probe into Nov. 30 shooting

Police hold the scene of a fatal shooting in downtown Hamilton on the morning of Nov. 30, 2013. (Cory Ruf/CBC)

Johnson’s death comes as a “shock” to Jacqueline Ndalamba, who briefly dated the Hamilton man last year before she moved to Sweden.

The two remained friends, sending each other text messages and chatting over Facebook to keep in touch.

In a phone interview with CBC Hamilton, Ndalamba, 21, described Johnson as a “caring and thoughtful” friend who worked hard to “make the best for himself.”

“He was taking school really seriously and had really high dreams and high hopes for himself,” she said.

“Going to school, getting good grades, getting a good job and making it on his own — that is what he was striving for.”

Johnson didn’t talk much about his upbringing, Ndalamba said, but she sensed he had a painful past.

“We really didn’t talk too much about his past, but I kind of got the impression that he hadn’t had the best life.”

Shooting followed 'altercation,' police say

Police have released few details about Saturday's fatal shooting.

Johnson was shot in front of Vida La Pita restaurant on King Street West, in the same parking lot where an 18-year-old man had been stabbed to death less than three months earlier, on Sept. 15. 

"Shortly after 3 a.m., an altercation occurred between two groups of men outside a restaurant located at 217 King St. W," said Det. Paul Hamilton in a Saturday news release.

The conflict, he said, "quickly escalated when one man produced a handgun and shot the victim."

Emergency crews found Johnson without vital signs lying in the Tim Hortons parking lot next to the restaurant where the shooting had occurred, said James Summers, a spokesman for the Hamilton Paramedic Service.

Paramedics transported Johnson to Hamilton General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. 

On Saturday afternoon, Det. Hamilton told CBC Hamilton that Johnson did not have a criminal record.

Police, he added, have no suspects in the investigation, but were interviewing witnesses to find leads in the case.

'Truly, truly loyal'

Ndalamba said she wasn’t aware of any activities or associations of Johnson’s that might have put him at risk.

However, speaking about some members of his friend group, she said: “I don’t know if they were people I would associate with.”

When asked how she’d like to see Johnson remembered, Ndalamba said: “I would definitely love to see him remembered as someone who was truly, truly loyal to people around him, and even to himself.” 

In this video assignment for an engineering course, Johnson talks about responsibility, decision-making, and the long term effects they can have on the society: