An American aid worker died from a gunshot wound suffered in the southern African nation of Lesotho, the Peace Corps said in a statement.
Peace Corps volunteer Thomas Maresco, 24, died in the country's capital, Maseru, on Friday.
"The deceased was attending a farewell function at the Maseru Sun Cabanas Hotel ... he and a female friend decided to return to the center on foot even though their vehicles were waiting outside the Hotel," Inspector Lekhotla Mojete, of the Lesotho police, told CNN in a phone interview from Maseru.
"The area the hotel is in is very safe -- with not much crime, but we think they were observed leaving the hotel on foot and when they were returning, (an) assailant was waiting outside the Hotel," Mojete said. "The stranger started making demands of them, which they didn't fully understand and (the assailant) then shot the deceased."
He said the woman accompanying Maresco rushed back into the hotel to get help, but police were unable to find the gunman when the arrived on scene.
"We believe this was a robbery," Mojete said.
A description of the attacker was provided to law enforcement officials by the woman. No arrests have been made yet and an autopsy was scheduled.
"Tom was an exceptional volunteer, leader, teacher and coach -- he was an integral part of his host community where he shared his passion for teaching, music and sports," said Aaron S. Williams, the Peace Corps' global director.
Maresco's work also involved HIV awareness in the communities he served, according to the Peace Corps.
"We are deeply saddened by this tragic event, and I ask that you keep Tom's family, and our volunteers and staff in Lesotho in your thoughts and prayers."
The statement said that Maresco is from Port St. Lucie, Florida. He taught secondary education in the highlands district of Thaba-Tseka since November 2009. Maresco was scheduled to serve until January 2012.
Peace Corps has 91 volunteers in Lesotho. More than 2,100 Americans have served as Peace Corps volunteers in the nation since 1967.
Thomas Maresco Facebook story told a slightly different story:
"Thomas Carmine Maresco's cousin Bobby has asked that we all pass this statement around: CNN HAS UPDATED TOM'S STORY WITH INACCURATE INFORMATION! CNN IS REPORTING THAT TOM AND ONE OTHER FEMALE FRIEND LEFT THE HOTEL WHERE THEY WERE CELEBRATING TO RETURN TO THEIR OWN HOTEL ON FOOT. THIS IS NOT TRUE, THERE WERE EYEWITNESSES THAT REPORT THAT TOM LEFT WITH ALL THE OTHER PCV'S IN HIS CAMP. AS BOBBY HAS SAID, TOM HAD BEEN OVER THERE ALMOST A YEAR AND WAS VERY STREET SMART, LET'S GET THE CORRECT STORY OUT THERE AND NOT LET THE LESOTHO POLICE PROTECT THEMSELVES RATHER THAN BEING GRATEFUL FOR THE WORK THAT THE PEACE CORPS HAVE DONE FOR THEIR COUNTRY!!!"
I want to personally thank Thomas Maresco for all he has done and what he would have done in the future. I hope to get a great chance like this and join the Peace Corps and get stationed in Africa. Thank You Thomas Maresco.