SAN JOSE -- A young father was shot to death early Thursday in what relatives are calling a senseless tragedy since he was simply moving his car out of the path of arriving street sweepers when an unknown assailant opened fire on him in East San Jose.

An uncle who went to the crime scene at Lanai Avenue and Denali Way identified the victim as 27-year-old Eric Mendoza, a husband and father of a 6-month-old boy. Adding to the family's horror is the fact that Mendoza's wife of two years was the one who found him, slumped over in his car.

Mendoza's death marked San Jose's 11th homicide of the year. And while the neighborhood off Tully Road and Highway 101 has long been a hotspot for gang activity, San Jose police said there are no immediate indications of gang motives, and both police and Mendoza's family said there was nothing to suggest the victim had gang ties.

"He was at the wrong place, wrong time, wrong car color," said Hector Hurtado, Mendoza's uncle, referring to Mendoza's red coupe. "Somebody took a very big part of our family away, somebody who had nothing to do with what was going on here at night ... A son without a father now, it's not fair."

Hurtado's mention of "wrong car color" was likely an allusion to the neighborhood's gang activity predominantly involving Sureño street gangs, which claim the color blue and clashes with its red-bearing Norteño rivals.

Neighbors reported hearing gunshots around 3:30 a.m.

"From what we've gathered so far, he was probably shot while driving and veered off down the street at a low rate of speed and crashed into the car in front of him," Lt. Jason Herr said.

Mendoza crashed into a parked car on Denali Way, just west of Lanai Avenue, and just blocks away from his apartment.

San Jose police responded to Lanai Avenue and Denali Way at 5:23 a.m. after receiving reports of the shooting. Mendoza was pronounced dead at the scene.

Relatives said Mendoza was a machinist who worked in Belmont and recently took the late shift ending at 2 a.m. so that someone would always be home to care for his new child because his wife worked during the day. He was dropped off from work early Thursday morning and realized it was street sweeping day. The San Jose native and Yerba Buena High graduate got into the car to move it.

When he didn't walk through the front door as he always did, Mendoza's wife headed out into the neighborhood to look for him. According to Hurtado, she actually drove by the car once before coming back around and discovered he was still inside.

Homicide detectives cordoned off a large segment of Lanai Avenue to examine the crime scene. Leonel Perez's home of 11 years was within the confined area, and he said police asked him for footage from a home security camera pointed at the street where the crash occurred. He said he installed the camera to ward off graffiti taggers and car thieves but did not anticipate it might observe a killing.

"It's surprising but at the same time, not really," Perez said.

No suspects or a motive have been identified.

"We're still waiting for some answers. This shouldn't have happened in the first place," Hurtado said. "He was very quiet, stayed to himself. Especially after he had his baby and became a family man; it was all he ever wanted."

Contact Robert Salonga at 408-920-5002. Follow him at Twitter.com/robertsalonga.