Heading for a vacation with his parents and children, a man driving a white VW van was fatally shot when he was hit by a bullet fired across a Seattle street.

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A man who had just picked up his parents from the airport and along with his two young children was heading out for a Memorial Day weekend vacation was killed Thursday by a bullet fired across a Seattle street.

Seattle police said the shooter was firing at people he was arguing with on the opposite side of East Cherry Street near the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Way just after 4:30 p.m.

The victim, who police say was in his 40s, was driving a white Volkswagen van westbound on East Cherry Street when he crossed the path of the bullet.

The driver was hit and pronounced dead at the scene. None of the other people in the vehicle with him — his parents and two children — was injured.

Messeret Habeti, who owns Assimba Ethiopian Cuisine near where the man was killed, said he frequently brought his wife and two children to her restaurant for dinner. She said he lived in Madrona.

“He was a loyal customer,” she said.

Habeti said she didn’t see the shooting but she did see the man as he was dying in his van; his father was cradling his head in his hands, she said.

His two children, ages 4 and 7, ran to the safety of her restaurant after the shooting; they stayed for about 45 minutes and asked for something to eat.

She described the man, whose name she could not recall, as a wonderful person and a caring father.

“He was in here maybe two or three times a month,” Habeti said. “What a horrible thing to happen; what a shame.”

Near the site of the shooting Thursday night, a mother and her three sons had left a handful of small unlit candles at a base of a lamp post. “This is our neighborhood,” she said, declining to give her name. “We are not afraid.” Officers searched the area for the shooter last seen running from the area on foot. He remained at large late Thursday.

He was described only as a man in his 20s. An earlier suspect description was retracted.

Anyone with information about this incident or who may know the identity or whereabouts of the shooter is asked to call 911 or the Seattle police homicide tip line at 206-233-5000.

Anonymous tips are welcome.

Material gathered by Seattle Times staff reporters Christine Clarridge and Lornet Turnbull was used in this report.