L.A. police are investigating whether the fatal shooting of artist Joseph Gatto, the father of a state assemblyman, is tied to an assault earlier in the week in Silver Lake.
Joseph Gatto’s daughter found him at his Silver Lake home Wednesday evenig, slumped over a desk, with a fatal gunshot wound to the abdomen.
LAPD Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese said detectives had “no information whatsoever” that Gatto's death “has anything to do with his son's politics.” Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) represents a district that includes Silver Lake, where the family has lived for years.
Albanese said police were investigating “a number of different avenues,” including whether the slaying was linked to an aggravated assault and vehicle break-in reported Tuesday night not far from Gatto's home.
“We're obviously looking at it,” Albanese said, declining to release any details about the investigation.
In an email widely circulated among Silver Lake residents, a woman warned her neighbors to be on the lookout for suspicious prowlers. She said she saw a man crouched next to a car with glass on the ground on Tuesday night. The woman yelled at the suspicious man, while another resident chased him.
“The suspect had his back to me and then after a few steps turned around and aimed a gun at the car,” wrote the woman, who asked not to be identified and declined to talk about the incident to The Times.
“Do you want to die tonight?” the suspect shouted, according to the woman’s email account.
“To hear the news of the senseless murder of Mr. Gatto made me sick to my stomach. I described the suspect as brazen and felt a twinge it was the same person,” she said in the email.
The woman told The Times on Friday that she was being interviewed by police.
Jesse Wiener, 26, said his car was broken into Tuesday evening, not far from Gatto’s home. Wiener said he didn’t witness the break-in or what happened afterward, but a neighbor told him she tried to stop the suspect, who ultimately fled down a flight of stairs in the neighborhood.
The woman said the suspect had brandished a gun, Wiener said. They called the police, Wiener said, and patrol officers took two separate reports – one for the break-in and another for the neighbor’s encounter with the suspect.
Police returned the next day to dust his car for fingerprints, Wiener said. Detectives showed up again Thursday, Wiener said, this time canvassing the neighborhood after Gatto’s slaying.
Wiener said he mentioned the Tuesday incident, which prompted police to re-examine his Honda Fit again Friday and dust the car for fingerprints.
Wiener said detectives gave no specific indication whether they believed the break-in was connected to Gatto’s death. The chain of events is “disconcerting,” he said.
“It’s unsettling, absolutely,” he said. “But you know, you just gotta keep your wits about you. Of course, I’ve been looking over my shoulder when I go home at night.”
Coroner’s officials performed an autopsy on Friday and confirmed that Gatto died from a single gunshot wound to his abdomen. Authorities did not say when they believe Gatto was killed, and it is unclear when he was last seen.